Barossa Valley community solar co-op issues first call for members

A community solar energy cooperative based out of South Australia’s Barossa Valley region has put out the call for members, as it works to bed down its first host project.

The Solar Harvest Community Energy Co-operative said on Monday that it was ready to start accepting members after clearing the final hurdle of formal registration by Consumer and Business Services.

The group’s plan is to install solar panels on the roofs of businesses and community organisations within the Gawler, Barossa Valley and Adelaide Plains region, and have those organisations lease the panels back at low cost.

The rooftop solar installations will be funded by the purchase of membership and shares – membership requires a one-off fee of $50, while shares in the projects can be purchased for $500 each.

Once up and running, and once the co-op’s financial situation allows, Solar Harvest says members could then start to receive a dividend on their shares.

“People who purchase shares will become members in the co-op and have their say in the way the co-op runs,” said Brian Phillips, the originator of the idea and first official member of the co-op.

“Each member has one vote no matter how many shares they hold, which protects the co-op from being taken over by an outside investor. The power is produced and distributed locally and local organisations with panels installed will benefit from lower power costs.”

Co-op chair, Jane McNicholl, said the board had been negotiating with a number of different organisations to become the co-op’s first host project and hoped to make a formal announcement about it “very soon.”

“We are projecting we need a minimum of 40 shares purchased to commit to the first project,” McNicholl said.

“Money collected from membership shares will remain untouched in Solar Harvest’s bank account until a viable project is commenced, and will be returned in full to members if no project is identified by December 2021.”

In lieu of gathering together for the co-op’s first membership session – which has been postponed in line with public health restrictions around Covid-19 – McNicholl said a launch video had been created to provide the same information.

“We are disappointed we can’t hold our membership session, however memberships and shares are now available to purchase via our website,” she said.

“For those who would like to ‘meet ’the Board members, learn more about Solar Harvest or wish to purchase shares, please visit our website. We will plan in-person sessions around the region when the health situation settles down.”

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