Community Solar Farm Co-ownership Opportunity UPDATE:

Firstly, we would like to say a big THANK YOU to those members of the community who attended our 4 focus groups, the Community Information event, and those who filled in the Survey. All the important feedback gained from those who participated in these initiatives can now be synthesised into the documents required to move the process forward.
We would like to share with you a summary of the results.
ZNET Uralla held four focus groups to determine interest in community co-ownership of Meralli’s local 4MW (mid-scale) solar farm. These were attended by 35 people, ranging in age from 35 to 75 and comprising representatives from farmers, business, retirees, health care, education, and general community.
The outcomes of the discussions can be summarised as follows:
• There was general support for the concept with agreement that it was a great opportunity for all the community.
• There was excitement to invest, hope that this model might be replicated elsewhere and that some funds might be injected into the community.
• Motivation to become involved included local ownership, expected good returns on investment, associated recycling industries planned for part of Meralli’s land, and no additional transmission lines needed.
• Broader community involvement would be possible through returns staying within the local community, but also could include education and activities on site.
• There was a desire for explorations of how to manage equity for residents.
• There was general support for only offering this opportunity to residents of Uralla Shire in the first instance.
• There was discussion of Next Steps and personal interest in being involved in a Reference Group.
• The bulk of people submitting surveys were homeowners, with a reasonable proportion living outside the Uralla township in the rural areas of the Shire.
• Over half of respondents had rooftop solar.
• 90% of respondents were over 40 years.
• Over 90% of respondents expressed a desire to have part of Uralla Shire’s electricity owned by the community, rather than by corporates or foreign entities.
• The majority of respondents indicated that the following community benefits of co-ownership were very important:
The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions; action on climate change; building more renewables in our region; local electricity reliability and security; keeping financial returns in the local economy local job creation opportunity for community investment; using local goods and services; and education on renewables.
• The respondent’s preference for investment offers was for local shire residents, with local businesses and not-for-profit groups also important to include.
• All respondents said they would be either willing to invest or would consider investment, with the most important reason being action on climate change.
• The bulk of respondents would consider investing $1,000 to $10,000, with some others indicating they would invest more. Preferred rates of return for investment amounts were 5-9%
• Almost half of respondents offered to be involved in some voluntary way to assist with this project as it progresses.
We have moved our ‘next steps’ forward into the new year. Community Power Agency are working with ZNET to take the feedback from the community to date and use it to inform the design of the co-ownership arrangements.
January 21st will see a Reference Group formed and work on the documents begin.
February (date to be announced) will be the Naming ceremony of the project on-site.
We look forward to continuing this project which will bring a more stable and resilient energy supply through the connection to the Uralla sub-station, as well as providing community co-ownership in such an important community resource.
The Uralla community can indeed be a model for other towns and villages to follow towards a more community empowered renewable future.

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