More than 250 homeowners in Canberra will begin seeing the benefits of their investment when the first community-owned and funded solar farm flicked the ‘on’ switch on Thursday (11 March).
The SolarShare Canberra project began as an idea 10 years ago and has since attracted more than 400 investors who contributed more than $2.4 million to finance the project, making it the largest community-owned solar farm in Australia.
The SolarShare farm will contribute more than $400,000 each year back to community investors and service providers, and more than 2.3-gigawatt hours (GWh) of energy into the grid while abating more than 1900 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.
The three-hectare solar farm has been built next to the commercially owned 2.3 MW Majura solar farm on vacant land leased from Mount Majura Vineyard.
SolarShare’s executive officer Lawrence McIntosh said they were incredibly proud to begin providing energy from the solar farm while facilitating a community to transition to a sustainable future.
“Studies overseas have shown when an energy generation plant is locally owned, nine times as much local economic activity is created compared with plants owned by large developers not locally based,” Mr McIntosh said.
“This is because the local investors in the project will generally cycle their earnings back into local goods and services.”
Mr McIntosh said the project contributes to the ACT Government’s large-scale renewable energy program.
“It’s been a pleasure to be part of creating the SolarShare Majura project, and I feel tremendous gratitude for all the support we’ve received from the community, from our volunteers, from local service providers, our construction and finance partners Epho and CWP, and of course the ACT Government,” he said.
Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Shane Rattenbury joined SolarShare’s board of directors and project partners at the farm’s Majura site to turn on the solar plant.
“Canberrans know the value solar has to our clean, green and affordable energy future,” Mr Rattenbury said.
“The SolarShare Community Farm has given the local community the power to invest in renewable energy, providing power to around 250 local homes through this great initiative.
“For people who can’t install solar at their own premises, this is a great way to be involved in the clean energy revolution.
“Now that we have a proven model, I look forward to seeing more community-owned solar farms here in the ACT and across Australia.”
SolarShare chairperson Nick Fejer said the board was still receiving lots of interest from Canberrans wanting to invest in the solar farm, but there were no existing members who had expressed interest in selling shares.
However, he said there will be further opportunities for people to tap into the solar project, such as renters, university students and even people living in caravans.
“SolarShare is for anyone who wants to be part of the shift to a renewable energy economy. This includes people who previously had no access to the solar power market such as renters or those without a roof suitable for solar panels,” Mr Fejer said.
Unlike other investments, SolarShare securities are not listed on the stock exchange, although the price is determined by buyers and sellers who transact the share. The last price per share that was issued or transacted was $10.