Australia’s largest community solar farm switched on in Canberra

Image: SolarShare

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 ACT’s Majura district.

The project’s developer, SolarShare, said on Thursday that the Majura Valley Community Solar Farm was being switched on this week, six years after the project was first proposed.

“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.”

The project was designed and built by Epho Commercial Solar, which just this week was bought up by AGL Energy, along with Solgen Energy Group. In June of last year, when Epho was selected for the job, McIntosh said SolarShare had chosen an EPC partner that understood the complexity of the project and would through the challenges of a community solar farm.

“Epho had been supporting our efforts for a couple of years, so the Epho Team was the most compelling choice of solar company in terms of costs, results, and risks for the execution phase of our solar farm,” McIntosh said.

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.

“Its been a pleasure to be a part of creating the SolarShare Majura project and I feel tremendous gratitude for all the support we’ve receive from the community, from our volunteers, from local service providers, our construction and finance partners Epho and CWP, and of course the ACT Government,” said McIntosh on Thursday.

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