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Community-owned solar PV project planned for Sydney’s inner west

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A community-owned solar PV array of 50kW is being proposed for the rooftop of an organic foods business in Sydney’s inner west, in what could be the first of many such installations in Australian capital cities.

The idea for the solar array of at least 50kW on the roof of the About Life organic food business in Rozelle has been promoted by  Jamie Parker, the  Greens member for Balmain in the state parliament. The idea is that local residents and other stakeholders will own shares in the project, which will be built on the rooftop of the business and sell electricity to the host business.

“Our vision is to build a large group of small-scale local “shareholders” who will invest in a solar installation located within the Balmain electorate,” Parker told RenewEconomy. “Ideally, we’d like to see this rolled out as a blueprint for community owned and operated renewable energy in communities across NSW.”

There is a lot of work being done on these projects – capturing the growing interest in renewables, the competitive rates that commercial scale solar installations can deliver to host businesses, and the fact that many residients – particularly in inner city areas, have not been able to install their own solar system because they either rent or do not have suitable rooftops.

RenewEconomy chaired a meeting attended by several hundred people last week that heard from Embark, an organization set up after the creation of the Hepburn Win Farm to help create “blueprints” for more community owned facilities, Nicky Ison, a partner in Community Power projet, which has identified dozens of potential projects across the country, and the solar PV industry.

Embark has already announced plans for one 400kW community solar project in Sydney, with Lend Lease in Darling Harbour, and has others in the pipeline. The Sydney Community Renewables Group, borne from the meeting last week, is also looking at projects.

In Melbourne, the Live Community Power project has released a feasibility study into a range of options to add a further solar PV array of between 64kW to 277.5kW to the roof of the South Melbourne markets.

It says that despite the 200 stallholders gaining favourable tariffs of between 12.4c in peak and 8.42c/kWh off peak, a debt-free investment by the City of Pot Phillip would gain an internal rate of return of around 7%. Creating a community owned entity, however, could be expensive and it would need to overcome some significant barriers to be successful.

Parker, meanwhile, said that the Renewable Energy Inner West project is part of the campaign to create a 100 per cent Renewable NSW. “Our message is that a 100% renewable energy future is not only possible and affordable, but essential. Together we can make this vision a reality – I believe we can build a renewable energy future through advocacy and practical action in our own communities.”  

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