MANILLA’s dream of becoming a renewable energy hub is one step closer, as plans for a solar farm and a biodigester heat up.
A feasibility study for the two projects, which will be owned by the community, was released on Friday, outlining the way forward.
The initiative is the brain child of Manilla Community Renewable Energy, who want energy to be made by the people, for the people.
The two-megawatt solar farm would cover about four hectares with 8000 solar panels, on a site near a substation – the feasibility study identified a patch of Crown Land near the Manilla silos as a potential location.
Ideally, the biodigester would be close to places that produce the materials it needs, such as a tip or an abattoir.
Manilla Community Renewable Energy president Emma Stilts said while it was still early days, the biodigester was estimated to cost $30m and the solar farm would cost about $2m.
“Manilla has about 2000 people, so if everyone invested $1000 each, that would easily pay for the solar farm,” Ms Stilts said.
“If we own our own infrastructure, then we control the price and people get a return on their investment. It just makes sense to build these things in regional centres.”
The feasibility study was made possible by a $50,000 grant from the state government. Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson and Environment Minister Mark Speakman backed the project at the study’s launch, praising the drive of the Manilla community.
“We need smaller communities like Manilla to lead the charge and this is an excellent example of where we’ve got to go,” Mr Anderson said.
Mr Speakman said the NSW government had committed making the state carbon neutral by 2050.
“Community energy will be an important part of that,” Mr Speakman said.
“I’ve read the Manilla feasibility study and it looks pretty good. The numbers appear to stake up, so hopefully it will come to fruition.”
Ms Stilts said the next step was continuing to talk to the community, locking down sites for the projects and suppliers for the biodigester.