Within six hours of it opening, investors had pitched in to invest in one of the newest community funded renewable energy projects, a huge 230 kilowatt solar system on the roof of Bakers Maison in western Sydney.
The public appetite for community-funded renewable energy appears to be limitless, with projects proving so popular they are selling out within minutes of being offered to investors.
This latest initiative, saw 20 investors pitch in almost $400,000 in total in just six hours.
The project has been set up by volunteer-run ClearSky Solar Investments. The company will pay investors for the solar energy it uses over a period of between seven to 10 years. The investors get a 7% return on the money they put in. After that time, the business owns the panels and will use its energy for free.
“There’s a huge appetite out there for people to invest in renewable energy, we just need more projects,” ClearSky Director Warren Yates said.
Bakers Maison employs 120 people and runs every day of the year, baking and freezing French-inspired products that are sold to all corners of Australia. “We are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in utility bills,” General Manager Pascal Chaneliere said.
The bakery already had a 100 kilowatt solar power system, which will now be bolstered by this new, much larger community project. Mr Chaneliere said getting investors involved to help out with the costs of the new solar panels would help further reduce their bills.
“We signed a contract for the cost of electricity for the next coming years, so it makes a lot of sense. We know exactly what will be the expenditure for the next five years.”
David Blowers from the Grattan Institute said community projects had potential to save the electricity grid from expensive upgrades that are passed on as costs to consumers. He said network businesses should look to get involved in some community projects.
“You want to see a framework which encourages the right sort of solution for the right sort of problem,” Mr Blowers said. “At the moment it’s a one solution fits all, which is you build more poles and wires.” He added his view that Government needed to look at the way the grid costs were regulated to make sure costs were spread fairly.
More than 50 community solar projects are up and running across the nation, with individuals investing almost $24 million in total.
But Australia remains well behind Denmark, which has 5,500 projects up and running, many of those wind farms.
Scotland has more than 500 community energy projects, while Germany has 880 energy cooperatives.