A new community-based solar investment company has completed its first community-funded solar installation – at a pub in the heart of a NSW coal-mining region – and says it is revolutionising small scale solar power generation in Australian communities.
ClearSky Solar Investment works off trust-based investor model, planning to link local investors with high quality solar projects. The company is one of many eyeing up to several hundred community solar projects around the country.
The company has completed its first project, a 15kW system at the Royal Hotel in Boggabri, NSW. The project, which comprises 60 250W Trina solar panels and a 15Kw SMA inverter, and was completed on June 10. It had just under 10 investors, an agreed investor term of 7 years, and a planned total term yield of 171 per cent.
Under the model, investors own the modules and sell the output of the system to a local consumer – usually the landowner. Each project has a maximum of 20 investors and a minimum investment of around $2500 or $5000, depending on the size of the project and the number of investors.
Two more projects are currently in the works and looking for funding, including projects in Narrabri and Brewarrina.
Company spokesperson Dr Christina Kirsch, says projects are only established in areas where renewable energy is a cost effective alternative to buying energy off the grid and are usually with municipal buildings that are unlikely to change hands within a decade.
Project funding is sourced via a trust where community members purchase units in the project trust for a fixed period of time, usually between seven to eight years.
Most investors, she says, “are just your local mum and dad looking to diversify their superannuation investments in a stable low risk environment”.
Kirsch says the model benefits all involved parties because energy users have reduced energy costs, investors receive a healthy ROI, local jobs are used in the installation and maintenance and the solar panels add to the growing uptake of renewables in Australia.
ClearSky received a grant from the NSW office of Environment and Heritage in may for $58,000 which has, to date, been expended on financial and investor compliance with ASIC due to the trust nature of the projects and to build a web-site.
ClearSky is just one of nine community based groups that were chosen by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage for funding. The company is planning an official launch at the Tramshed’s Lakeview Hall in Narrabeen, NSW on September 19.