WA Aboriginal community switches to solar, looks to go off-grid

A 36kW solar system installed at an indigenous community in Western Australia via an “impact investment loan” is expected to displace 20 per cent of the 100-person community’s electricity use.
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The three-year project was a joint effort of the Kurrawang Aboriginal Christian Community near Kalgoorlie and the Alternative Technology Association (ATA), with $52,500 in finance loaned by the McKinnon Family Foundation and CAGES Foundation.
The “impact investment” project is believed to be a first for Australia, in which capital is used to generate social or environmental outcomes as well financial returns.
The community – which consists of about 30 houses and one primary school – will pay off the loan in five years, with bill savings exceeding monthly loan repayments.
The projected savings of the 139-panel system, which is mounted on the roof of a workshop and machinery shed, were modelled using the ATA’s Sunulator solar calculator.
ATA chief executive Donna Luckman said the solar project as a great achievement for the people of Kurrawang, a perfect fit for the community, and a win for the environment.
“Since all the buildings in the community are metered as a single entity, every household will benefit,” she said.
“It means the community will save on their electricity bills and the environment benefits as well through reduced emissions. This really shows how you can be innovative with community renewable energy and impact investment.
“We hope this can serve as a model for other communities.”
KACC board member Rowena Leslie said the community was pleased to see the solar project completed.
“This provides electricity for the whole day and whatever we don’t use, there would be a small surplus fed back into the grid,” she told the Kalgoorlie Miner.
“The community got involved in helping to install the panels and it is empowering to know that we have been able to accomplish this ourselves,” she said.
“We did have a lot of different groups help of course, but it was us driving it from the beginning.”
Leslie said the community had a long-term goal of going off the grid completely, and has encouraged any organisations that might be able to assist with this to get in touch.

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