Lake Macquarie City Council is partnering with Pingala (a Sydney based Community Energy group) to facilitate community financed solar within the Lake Macquarie area.
There was good attendance despite a late change of venue with 5 clubs, and a couple of other businesses and solar vendors in attendance.
Chris Harle, Sustainability Engagement Coordinator, spoke on behalf of Lake Macquarie council on current council initiatives in sustainability and renewable energy.
Alec Roberts (Chair of CLEANaS) gave an introductory talk on community energy and the importance of energy efficiency to be included in community energy projects. Alec also presented on CLEANaS past and present projects undertaken including Hunter Wetlands Solar project.
Tom Nockolds (Pingala Secretary) spoke about Pingala’s successful recent project Young Henrys Project, where Pingala put 115 solar panels on the roof of Young Henrys, a craft brewery in inner-west Newtown. The 29.9kW solar system installed has enabled Young Henrys to produce “solar-powered beer”, and reduce their carbon footprint. Pingala raised finance for the project from the local community at an investor event at the brewery. Investment was through a cooperative share offer which sold out in 9 minutes! Community investors are expected to receive a ROI of between 5%-7% on their investment in the project.
Both CLEANaS and Pingala presentations spoke to what makes a good host site for and why go with community solar. A good host site has:
- high day-time energy demand;
- available roof space with N-NW aspect and good access and safety;
- long term tenure (>10 years);
- well defined and large supporter group;
- good visibility/contribution to region;
- flexible and motivated building owners;
- no access to discounted energy contracts; and
- a project champion within the organisation, that can help galvanise support for the project
Community solar offers businesses an alternative model to private rooftop solar. It not only protects the business against rising electricity prices and generates clean energy on site, community solar helps forge strong relationships with the local community, as members of the local community are often investors in the solar installation.
Therefore, upfront as a business:
- Solar must stack-up for your business;
- Financing should be something that you’re interested in, viz avoiding up-front purchase and other normal financing benefits; and
- You are keen on Community engagement and the marketing opportunity associated with a Community Solar project.
Most clubs that attended had large membership bases and also large electricity bills. Only one already had some solar PV installed but wished to add more if possible. The representatives from the clubs talked about the dramatic increases in electricity bills and effects on their clubs. They also talked about the difficulty of getting impartial advice about installing solar.