Flagship megawatt-scale community solar farm achieves final funding to break ground in August

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Renewable Energy developer CWP Renewables has provided up to $800,000 in funding required for SolarShare’s 1 MW community solar project, Mount Majura Solar Farm, to commence construction.

The milestone project for the community-energy sector in Australia had raised $4.36 million from more than 400 Canberra residents, and might have taken another six months to bring in the final funds required to break ground on the Mount Majura site, when it reached agreement with CWP Renewables to get the project over the line sooner than expected.

“They’ve got a really great team at CWP,” an elated Lawrence McIntosh, Principal Executive Officer of SolarShare, told pv magazine, “and they were able to offer us some attractive debt terms.”

From CWP’s point of view, the company’s Asset Operations Analyst, Andrew Thomson, says, “We love the project and we love the fact that we can be involved in a community-investment program.” He adds that funding of the project also dovetails with CWP’s “deed of entitlement with the ACT Government”, which specifies a level of investment in the Territory.

SolarShare’s intention in developing its first community project on a site leased from Mount Majura Winery in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), was to cut ordinary Canberrans in on the benefits of investing in renewable energy.

Many of its investors are among the 30% of Australians who cannot install solar on their homes, because they rent, or they live in apartments, or their rooftops offer too small a sunlit expanse, for example.

Share parcels in Mount Majura Solar Farm were available at a minimum of $500 investment and a maximum of $100,000.

The farm which is now expected to begin feeding electricity to the Canberra grid by the end of 2019, will have capacity to power the equivalent of 260 homes, and will displace 1,700 tonnes of CO2.

By not exceeding 1 MW in scale it qualified for the ACT Government’s Community Solar initiative, which allows it to sell its output to the grid for a guaranteed feed-in tariff of 19.56 cents per kilowatt hour. Investors will receive their share of profits from the annual revenue of more than $360,000, allowing them to offset the cost of their electricity bills.

At 1 MW, Mount Majura is the largest community solar project in Australia, and SolarShare chair Nick Fejer has said, “The first project of this size would have been difficult without government assistance.”

The acceleration of financial close by CWP Renewables led Fejer to tell the The Canberra Times yesterday: “We’re wildly excited!”

CWP’s Thomson told pv magazine, “I think it’s very important for us as an industry to maintain our social mandate, and to help distribute some of the gains to everybody.” Although he says this happens indirectly through investment in environmental super funds, a project such the SolarShare Mount Majura initiative “really lets Mum-and-Dad investors in, to have a closer look at the success of renewables.”

CWP Renewable’s Sapphire Wind Farm is another project offering community participation in funding renewable development.

Says Thomson, “It comes down to setting up platforms where these projects can be cheaply and securely invested in by the public.”