The 100 kW Solar Project of Shoalhaven Heads Bowling Club in NSW is right on schedule. Australia’s largest solar project is now close to becoming a reality with ‘everyday investors’ raising $120,000 in a matter of 10 days. This shows the amazing result when people get their heads together. A little less than three months ago, Repower Shoalhaven, a not-for-profit community renewables organization launched an online promotion for a community solar project.
“We’re still 100% run by volunteers who meet once a month in the town library to make it happen. We’re driven by the desire to see a strong local economy and proactive action on climate change,” said Chris Cooper, President of Repower Shoalhaven, during the project’s launch.
The community project goals
The group aims to install a rooftop solar system at the local bowling club. They also hope that with this project, they will be able to kick-off the south-coast NSW town’s conversion to sustainable energy systems.
“What’s so good about this type of project is that it’s developed by the Shoalhaven community via a democratic member process,” continued Cooper.
“We are using local installers, suppliers and investors. That means most of the money will stay here, instead of going for a coal generator or a network monopoly to perpetuate an already unsustainable system. And surely that is positive, regardless of your politics,” Cooper added.
Repower Shoalhaven’s ultimate objective is to have 80 per cent of the rooftop solar system funded and owned by community shareholders. The remaining 20 per cent is to be taken up by the Shoalhaven Heads Bowling Club.
Electricity supplied by the community solar project will be bought by the club. The term of agreement ends in 10 years, after which Repower Shoalhaven will turn over the solar system to the bowling club as a gift.
Getting the locals to fund the development of solar power projects is a viable and attractive proposition as proven by the Shoalhaven community. Funding for such projects is sometime difficult to raise. However Repower Shoalhaven has proven that everyday investors can do it.
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Success overseas for similar crowd-funding model
“In Europe and North America, we’ve already seen the ‘crowd-funding’ model used to make solar projects happen,” said Cooper. “But this is the first community-owned solar project in Australia and I think it will be the first of many for Repower Shoalhaven,” Cooper added.
“For our first project…we raise $120k in 10 days to install a 99kW system that will save the bowling club $300,000 – $400,000 over its lifetime,” continued Cooper.
“We plan to roll out this model on many other local buildings in the coming year. This model doesn’t need to be used just for energy projects – it can be used to fund anything in the local area via a capital investment process,” Cooper enthused.
Cooper stated that his community organization has already made agreements with several of the country’s leading business innovation and legal consultants. This will ensure that their community solar model is without any legal and financial restraints.