Report to investigate city solar farm

REDLAND ratepayers may not have to pay the city council’s $6million electricity bill, if an officer inquiry finds solar farms are viable and council decides to build one.

The idea was broached at Wednesday’s Redland City Council meeting when Division 9 councillor Paul Gleeson asked officers to investigate his proposal and report back by November.

“I’m not asking (council) to go out and spend $20million that’s going to cost the community to maintain the facility,” he said.

“I’m thinking about a commercial venture – a utility - that ratepayers can potentially own and it will provide a return to ratepayers which will, down the track, put downward pressure on rate increases.”

However, Division 2 councillor Craig Ogilvie labelled the idea a “hare-brained” scheme and nothing more than a boondoggle.

Cr Ogilvie said that the motivations behind the idea were unclear but if Council wanted to do something about climate change or making money it should start with a proper study of all options.

He cited previous council ideas to make money by instigating commercial waste businesses as “flops” and suggested the inquiry include wind farms.

“If it’s the later, about climate change, then I would think a better report to ask for would be ways council could combat climate change most effectively,” Cr Ogilvie said.

“That may be as simple as changing the lights in here or it might be as simple as changing our fleet across to a different kind of fuel …

“However, if it’s about making money then … I don’t want to see council getting involved in business opportunities – it’s not what governments should be doing.”

Chief executive Bill Lyon, who once worked for Energex, said there was not enough wind in Redlands for viable wind farms but a November deadline for the report was realistic.

He said officers had already looked at viable sites but still needed information about possible returns on investment, grid connections and outcomes from a Sunshine Coast Council pilot program.

Mayor Karen Williams said Sunshine Coast Council spent $50million on its solar farm, which would pay for itself and the council’s electricity bill within two years.

“Whether your motivation is the environment or the bottomline for your ratepayers and increasing cost of living, it’s certainly something we should be investigating,” Cr Williams said.

“We should be encouraging all of you and members of the community to come up with these ideas so council can continue to do things differently and better.”