THE South Melbourne Market could become the site of Australia's first community-owned solar farm.
The City of Port Phillip has thrown its support behind community group Locals Into Victoria's Environment (LIVE), which wants to install solar photovoltaic panels with a generating capacity of 100 kWh on the market's roof.
Under the plan, the panels would likely be sold to investors in multiples of $1000, with proceeds from electricity sales distributed to shareholders.
The idea for the solar farm is modelled on the successful Hepburn Community Wind Park near Daylesford - a $13.5 million community-owned farm that has more than 1900 members.
The council has commissioned a $20,000 feasibility study to investigate options for the project. LIVE convener David Robinson, who is heading up the project, said it could be the first of many co-op solar energy initiatives in Port Phillip.
"There are literally thousands of box buildings, schools, supermarkets, stadiums and swimming centres with a north facing roof that have potential - they're just as big and they have businesses underneath them that will soak up all the power that is generated," he said. "We want to do the first one on an iconic site to inspire other people to do it elsewhere."
Port Phillip council has already installed 150 solar panels on the market's new 8000 square metre roof, which was completed in November. The council-owned panels will take up about 5 per cent of available roof space and are expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 70 tonnes a year.
But Mr Robinson said the additional panels would cut emissions by 1300 tonnes and generate more than 1.2 million kWh of energy, 400,000 kWh more than the market uses. "Feeding that extra power into the grid is an imperative and we would have to negotiate the price with an electricity retailer," he said.
Mr Robinson said the project would be of interest to renters and people who live in apartment blocks. "Not everyone can put a solar panel on their roof," he said. "This project will let people invest in renewable energy, as a return on their investment or, if we have an agreement with an electricity supplier, as a deduction on their power bills."
Port Phillip mayor Amanda Stevens said the council was committed to a zero greenhouse gas emissions target at council-run facilities and a 50 per cent reduction per capita in community carbon emissions by 2020.