Students want to turn solar theory to fact

A GROUP of university students has set itself the task of proving that green energy can pay its way.

The Monash Renewable Energy Collective is hoping to raise $14 million to create a solar power station to harness the sun's rays.

The power stored by the station will then be sold and the profits divided among investors, which the collective hopes will comprise local residents.

Although they seem to have set themselves a mammoth task, collective leader Josh Sheppard says the big price tag is an achievable target.

"We've got over 150,000 people in the Monash area and if everyone chipped in a small amount of money ... then collectively we can definitely invest in this renewable energy resource," he said.

"It's what I like to call a community enterprise where the community comes together and we set up a business, but it's definitely community-minded and it's run by the community, so it's always got their best interests at heart."

Similar projects have proved successful already. In 2007, about 1900 people banded together to build a wind farm in Daylesford. Half the investors were locals and the farm started contributing to the local electricity grid in the middle of 2011.

The Monash Renewable Energy Collective, which was founded this year, is run by four university students: Mr Sheppard, Jennifer Stepanov, Jessica Blake and Chris Renwick — all 19 years old.

Mr Sheppard said the project was both a venture and a move to lessen the effects of global warming. "Climate change is obviously caused predominately by carbon emissions and one of the of largest sources is from our energy sector. So it's really important that we move to renewable energy as soon as possible.

"By running this program in the community, we're trying to kickstart the investment in renewables that we really need."

The group will be holding an information session next month to explain their project and prove that it works.

"I would definitely encourage people to come along, just to sate their curiosity if nothing else," Mr Sheppard said.

"There's definitely a bit of demand for people wanting to do things for the environment, and this is a really great way to come and see what we can do for the environment and what we can do to stop climate change in a community setting."

The Monash Renewable Energy Collective is holding an information session at 7.30pm on Thursday, March 7, at the Notting Hill Neighbourhood House on 37 Westerfield Drive, Notting Hill. RSVP essential. Details: [email protected]

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