Community solar project aims to fund 99kW system at Abbotsford Convent

Victoria-based community solar group The People’s Solar has launched its most ambitious project yet, to crowd-fund a 99kW solar energy system to be installed at the iconic Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne.
The project, which was launched last week, aims to raise a total of $120,000 by June 30 – $60,000 from a Pozible crowd-funding round and $60,000 in matching funds from a private sponsor; and if successful, the result will be Australia’s largest crowd-funded solar project, to date.
The site of the project, the one-time Convent of the Good Shepherd – which was saved from residential development in 2004 to become an arts, culture and learning precinct – sits on 16.8 acres on the Yarra River, four kilometres from Melbourne’s CBD.

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The Abbotsford Convent

The precinct, now owned by the not-for profit Abbotsford Convent Foundation (ACF), is made up of 11 heritage buildings housing more than 100 artist studios, cafes, galleries, a radio station and a school, and has a combined annual electricity bill of $130,000.
The 99kW solar system – which, if successfully funded, will be installed in 2017 as part of a major refurbishment of the original convent buildings and grounds – is expected to reduce the site’s annual energy costs by around $15,000 a year.
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Rooftops of the old convent and school

Money freed up by these savings will be reinvested into maintaining and protecting the Convent’s gardens and grounds and ensuring it remains an “inner-city” arts sanctuary.
Some of the funds will be used to roll-out additional sustainability initiatives, including LED lighting, site-wide green waste recycling, an integrated composting regime, additional water tanks and irrigation channels.
Alexandra Murphy, from the ACF, said installing solar was something the NGO had thinking about for years, both to cuts costs and reduce the precinct’s footprint.
“We’re mindful of our impact on the environment and the installation of a solar system is a first step,” Murphy told One Step Off The Grid in an interview on Friday.
“A large part of the (Pozible) campaign, for us, is getting the awareness out there that the ACF is being run by a not for profit.
“$60,000 is a lot of money for us to raise through a public campaign …(but) the cause is something that’s resonating really well with the local community,” Murphy said, adding that the Convent gets one million people through the gates every year.
“Everyone we speak to about it is really excited by (the solar project), and wanting to get on board.”
At the time of publication, nearly $10,000 had been raised for the project, with 28 days of the campaign to go.
The People’s Solar has so far has used its crowd-funding platform to raise more than $130,000 for solar projects – including for schools, charities and community cultural centres.
Last year it helped raise $40,000 to a stand-alone solar and storage system at the Balunu Foundation in Northern Territory – an NGO set up to deliver cultural healing to Indigenous kids at risk of suicide.
The Abbotsford Convent campaign will be The People’s Solar’s first project in partnership with Pozible – one of Australia’s best known crowd-funding platforms.

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