Canberra company SolarShare looks set to deliver Australia’s first megawatt-scale community-owned solar farm after getting the green light from the ACT government to begin building its 1MW project in the Maruja Valley.
The approval covers SolarShare’s application for a feed-in tariff, which means the company can sell the solar farm’s output on the wholesale energy market and earn 19.5 cents per kilowatt-hour.
In a statement on Thursday, SolarShare said the tariff, which was guaranteed for 20 years, provided the long-term stability needed to underpin the flagship renewable energy project, on which construction will begin in the third quarter of 2019.
The project has been in the pipeline for some years now, with plans for its development submitted in May 2015.
The business model allows residents to buy shares in the solar farm, with the guarantee of a safe return on their investment when energy is sold to the grid.
It’s one of a number of ways of offering the benefits of solar to consumers “locked out” of the rooftop PV market, including those renting, living in apartments, or with limited finances.
These include solar gardens, which – according to a report published this week – could save households up to $370 a year on their electricity bills.
“We’re excited to be part of Canberra’s renewable energy future, helping power the Bush Capital’s plan to run on 100 per cent clean energy by 2020” said SolarShare’s project leader, Lawrence McIntosh.
“I thank the 800+ individuals who have signed up to becoming investors in this project. The huge interest we’ve seen goes to show just how enthusiastic Canberrans are about investing in clean community-owned energy.
McIntosh says this is just the start for SolarShare, which has plans for “a string of solar projects,” that will open the community PV investment pool to more people.
“We work with owners of large rooftops as well as land,” he said. “SolarShare can offer to install solar panels for free and sell you cost effective clean energy.”
For the Maruja Valley project, however, there will be a final investment round, opening this Friday (December 14), inviting more ACT residents to become part owners of Australia’s largest community solar farm, Lawrence said.
To register interest as an investor, visit www.solarshare.com.au.