A SOLAR energy project in Portland could set an example for community groups across Australia by providing a clever way to make money and clean energy.
Portland Sustainability Group (PSG) has received a grant of up to $35,000 from Pacific Hydro and group convener Peter Reefman hopes it will be the last grant the group will ever need.
The plan is to purchase a mid-scale photovoltaic solar system that would be leased to a host partner, which will pay the group for its electricity as opposed to paying one of the major electricity providers.
Mr Reefman said the aim was to provide PSG with a perpetual funding stream so it needs never be reliant on grants again.
He said numerous companies already were interested in being the host partner for the solar system.
“We’d prefer that the host be a company that have been planning to get their own system anyway and this would be a complimentary system,” Mr Reefman said.
“They’d be saving money from their own system and the community system.”
If successful, the plan would allow PSG to become financially sustainable while freeing up grants for other community groups.
Mr Reefman said he believed the project was the first of its kind in Australia.
“This has been done in a network... where people chip into a collective system... where you might end up having thousands of invidual shareholders,” he said.
“But I haven’t heard of this being done in Australia. It’s been done in Europe, but they’re far more advanced (in terms of sustainability and green energy) over there.”
He said that if the project proved successful there was no reason why other community groups - from sporting clubs to Rotary chapters - couldn’t take on a similar idea to help provide an income stream.
“I’ve already given project details to a number of groups in Victoria and South Australia who are looking at the idea.”
Money raised by the solar panel project would help PSG run its regular workshops, which aim to teach people ways to become more sustainable through home-based and community initiatives, such as backyard food growing, recyclying, energy efficiency ideas, and group purchases.
The group, which formed in 2007, has been named as a finalist for a sustainable community award in the Keep Australia Beautiful Victoria Tidy Towns competition. The award nomination is in response to PSG’s recycling program.