NSW community solar group Pingala has won funding from the City of Sydney to install a rooftop solar plant on top of a local brewery in the city’s inner west – marking the inaugural project for the renewables start-up, which plans to build community-owned solar farms on businesses and organisations across Sydney.
The Newtown project, which will install PV panels at the Young Henrys Brewery, will be one of Australia’s first inner-city community renewables projects, after winning approval for a $40,000 innovation local government grant.
City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, a long-time supporter of locally generated renewable energy, says the project shows it is “technically and economically feasible” for Sydneysiders to invest in community energy.
Of the course, projects like these are also a great fit with the City of Sydney’s renewable energy master plan, which provides a blueprint for harnessing 100 per cent of the city local government area’s electricity, heating and cooling from renewable sources by 2030.
“We have already installed solar across 28 sites, including libraries, community centres and swimming pools,” said Moore in a statement on Tuesday. “With community groups like Pingala on board we can make the shift to renewable energy even faster.”
Pingala volunteer, Jake Steele, said the brewery solar project would help establish a model for the roll-out of similar community-based projects across the city.
“Our vision is for a clean energy future where everybody can share in the benefits that come from solar,” he said.
“It’s exciting to give non-traditional solar owners an opportunity to participate in a local project. Now anyone from renters to students to pensioners can get involved in solar energy in their own neighbourhood.
“These local people will become vocal champions for the success of the project, for clean energy and for the local economy.
“We are showing by doing to inspire and encourage other community groups to set up solar systems of their own. We believe our project will remove barriers for other clean energy projects in the City.”
The Pingala initiative will aim for a 6-8 per cent return for investors. After they have been fully paid back, the panels are gifted to the business to continue generating clean and cheap power.
As for the brewery, Young Henrys is considered a good fit for the solar group’s first effort, with a loyal community following and a sustainable approach to business.
Brewery owner, Oscar McMahon, says the company has a range of green practices already in place, including re-usable beer ‘growlers’ for customers to bring back and refill; as well as a deal to provide local farmers with one tonne a day of spent grain, donated to be used as feed for chickens, sheep and cattle.
“We’re very proud to be the host site for Pingala,” McMahon said. “This project is run by great people looking to change the world but starting in their own backyard.
“This was the perfect thing for us,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald in an interview. “We will start buying the power from the Pingala solar system on our roof, repaying people’s local investment into that system … we start buying renewable energy from our community.”
“It’s an amazing concept for us to be reducing our carbon footprint and producing local beer from locally owned, renewable green energy in the heart of our community.”