Energise Gloucester (EG) is making good progress with our Community Solar Farm and on track to commence construction later this year.
Since teaming with Komo Energy we have decided to develop the Solar Farm through a “design and construct” process. This will save us time and cost by contracting one company to optimise the design, maximise the generation capacity, and build the solar farm within our budget.
With the “design and construct tender” process the selected company will work with EG and Komo Energy through the steps of Council planning approval and Essential Energy grid connection authorisation. Undertaking these activities in parallel will be more efficient in time and costs as there are often iterations required to get the integrated approvals.
We will be releasing the tender by the end of February 2021 and aim to finalise a contract in April. These actions require the site to be finalised and leased.
Energise Gloucester and the Co-op Board have decided to develop the Solar Farm on 1 hectare of land at 373 Bundook Road. The details of the assessment process and the decision are explained in the section below.
Because we are close to being able to announce the tender price and construction process, we have decided to delay the share offer. This decision has been influenced by the experience of the Goulburn Solar Farm. They have successfully raised $1.9mill in a very short period of time but are not ready to start construction and this has created some issues and a need to invest the funds.
Like Goulburn, we consider that we will be able to raise the share capital in a short time. We should not need community funds until the latter part of 2021. Therefore, we will release the share offer in May/June 2021. As we get further into the “design and construct” contract we will have a better idea about the timetable and be able to indicate the timing of the share release. You are our partners and we will keep you informed.
A site selection sub-committee visited 10 possible sites for the Solar Farm and undertook desk studies on several others. They considered some sites for “behind the meter” development where Energise Gloucester would be able to sell some of the electricity to the landowner, but most were for the sale of all electricity to a licenced retailer through the grid operated by Essential Energy.
By considering environmental impact, grid connectability, location and cost, it was possible to reduce the possible sites to two. Preliminary connection assessment information from Essential Energy then enabled the Committee to decide on the preferred site. Our technical partners (Komo) are now undertaking a detailed assessment of this site for legal, construction and connection issues.
The site is at 373 Bundook Road on the property of Kerry and David Marston. This is a 1ha parcel of land with a gentle north-facing slope, south of the railway line and currently used for cattle grazing. The next best site is environmentally suitable but would incur higher grid connection costs.
Energise Gloucester was offering landholders a lease fee of $1,000 per year but the Marstons have waived the fee and are not collecting any rent. The lease will be a Caveat on their land title for the initial period of 20 years and the three 5-year options required by EG for the viability of the project.
The Solar Farm management will have access to this 1ha of fenced land and the Marstons will continue to operate the remaining farm area. When the Co-op decides that the Solar Farm should be decommissioned, it will be responsible for returning the land to its original grazing landuse and removing all equipment. It is projected that the Solar farm will be financially viable and operating for 20-35 years.
We are now getting to the exciting stages of:
- Finalising the site lease;
- Negotiating a design and construct contract that contains opportunities for local sub-contractors;
- Negotiating the grid connection requirements and costs with Essential Energy;
- Preparing and submitting a Development Application to MidCoast Council;
- Releasing the Share Information Package for sale to Members and the Community;
- Undertaking some site preparation with volunteer activity;
- Negotiating a Power Purchase Agreement with a licenced electricity retailer to buy the electricity and sell it back into the community with various conditions;
- Managing the construction and taking ownership of the operating asset.
We are still on target to be generating and selling electricity in the first quarter of 2022.
It is a big journey and we look forward to your continuing support.
Energise Gloucester Inc
Gloucester Community Solar Co-op Ltd