One of Australia’s first and largest community-owned solar farms, a 1MW project financed by more than 400 Canberra locals, has been completed at its site in the Australian Capital Territory.
ITP were approached by SolarShare, a community energy initiative, in early 2020 to assist in the facilitation of group’s flagship project; a 1MW solar farm in Majura. The site had considerable history, having been in development since 2012. The development is largely owned by shareholders in the project, who will earn dividends from the income generated by the solar farm. The development was largely managed by volunteers until ITP’s involvement.
ITP provided engineering oversight and project management services to the community group during the design and installation phases of the project, ensuring the installation of the system was achieved with the appropriate oversight for a project of this size and complexity. In its capacity as the Owner’s Engineer, ITP reviewed designs and monitored installation to ensure the installation compliance and best practice. ITP also managed regulatory approval with the ACT government, lifting a considerable burden from the community group.
“We are incredibly proud to be energising this solar farm today, and at the same time we see the Canberra community energised in helping our city transition to a sustainable future,” said SolarShare co-founder and principal executive officer Lawrence McIntosh.
“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, this is because the local investors in the project will generally cycle their earnings back into local goods and services.”
Now that its flagship project is complete, SolarShare hopes the Majura solar farm will serve as a key proof-of-concept to underpin the creation of additional community energy projects in other parts of Australia.
For the more than 400 local investors in the project, it has provided a pathway to ownership of solar power for those who may be prevented from directly investing in their own solar systems, such as renters or those living in apartments.
“SolarShare is for anyone who wants to be part of the shift to a renewable energy economy,” said SolarShare chair, Nick Fejer on Thursday. “This includes people who previously had no access to solar power market such … those without a roof suitable for solar panels.”
ACT climate minister, Shane Rattenbury, who was in attendance last August to kick off construction at the solar farm site, was there again this week for the switching-on of the plant, which is also part of the ACT government’s large-scale renewable energy program.
“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,” Rattenbury said.
“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.”
As well as delivering 2.3GWh of energy into the grid a year, the Majura solar project will also contribute more than $400,000 back to community investors and service providers.
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