First community-owned solar farm offers cheaper power, financial returns to NSW North West

16 December, 2019

16 December, 2019

Media Release

The NSW town of Manilla will host Australia’s first community-owned solar farm thanks to a partnership with Providence Asset Group, a leading Australian investor in renewable and clean energy projects.

Providence Asset Group Chief Executive Officer, Henry Sun, said the Manilla Solar Farm was the first of up to 30 community solar initiatives to be rolled out across regional Australia, not only reducing the impact of high power prices but also helping to strengthen the viability of rural and regional communities.

“We are thrilled Manilla is the first project to be officially launched and it’s been a pleasure working with people who share our belief in the potential of renewable energy to improve the well-being of communities and the environment – now and for future generations,” Henry said.

“It’s also an ideal example of communities thinking innovatively to help shape their futures and expand the prospect for more employment opportunities and economic benefits.”

Manilla Community Renewable Energy Inc. (MCRE) formed in 2013 with the aim of developing a community-owned renewable energy project, and early this year joined forces with Providence Asset Group. The result is Manilla Solar, which will now spearhead the construction of the 4.9MW solar farm on a 20ha block on the Manilla Rd, within 3km of the electricity substation. The design ensures minimal disturbance to the existing landscape and includes natural screening to minimise its visual impact.

The solar farm will be connected to the grid to allow access to the local community, as well as the wider energy market, while the battery storage capability creates further opportunities for the sale of the power that’s generated.

Construction is expected to start in June 2020 and the farm is anticipated to be producing electricity by April 2021. Providence Asset Group is currently working towards up to 30 more community-owned solar farms across NSW, Queensland and Victoria.

“With the price of electricity from traditional energy sources rising, solar farms like the one we’re establishing at Manilla are going to become increasingly important. This community model represents a ‘win-win’ for both the host community in the form of cheaper power and money back into the area, and the investors who are guaranteed an attractive investment return,” Henry said.

MCRE President Emma Stilts agreed it was an exciting opportunity for the town, and the culmination of a lot of hard work.

“It’s been quite a journey to get to this point, thanks to the efforts of a lot of committed people. So, to be able to formally announce the launch of this solar farm project, in conjunction with Providence Asset Group – a company that shares our vision for cleaner and greener energy generation – is very satisfying and we’re eagerly anticipating the next steps,” Emma said.

“Community members and business will now have the chance to invest in the project, with the knowledge the electricity produced will be sold to locals at a cheaper rate than retail electricity, and that a portion of all profits will come back to the Manilla community.”

Director Business and Community for Tamworth Regional Council, John Sommerlad, congratulated Providence Asset Group and Manilla Community Renewable Energy for the foresight in pursuing and launching the solar farm project, and emphasised the benefits for the wider region.

“The current drought has illustrated just how important it is for our region to diversify its industries for the benefit of our local economy, and this project is the perfect example of this. The potential employment opportunities for local contractors and businesses during the construction phase, and beyond, is great news and the financial and economic returns will flow well into the future,” he said.

Find out more about the Manilla Solar project:
communityrenewable.com.au/manilla-solar

For interview requests please contact Kylie Galbraith, Seftons, on 0411 480 208 or 02 6766 5222.