Community Solar: Clean Energy 4 Goulburn

A group of residents in Goulburn have joined together to create a community solar farm. The 1.2MW AC output Clean Energy 4 Goulburn solar farm will have 4000 non-reflective PV solar panels and the capacity to power between 350 and 500 houses in the region. It will be completed in 2018. 

Clean Energy 4 Goulburn

Clean Energy 4 Goulburn Team
Clean Energy 4 Goulburn Team (source: ce4g.org.au)

After a lack of interest in renewable energy for Goulburn, a group of seven locals led by group president Ed Suttle, formed Clean Energy 4 Goulburn in 2014.  They were hoping to raise $2m to finance their project, with around 50% coming from the local community, as the group made a commitment that they will be majority community owned. 

Following a viable feasibility study in 2015/16, a DA was made to the Goulburn Mulwaree Council for their solar farm to be built on a 2.5-hectare site east of Goulburn owned by Divall’s Haulage. After a protracted approval process, CE4G are partnering with Essential Energy (which in itself took 5 months to be approved), who own the power infrastructure in Goulburn, to get permission to use their poles and wires to transport the energy.

The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that the GE4G team are hoping to sell 50% of its eventual renewable output to one major end users (e.g. local government or a large institution), and the remaining 50% can be sold (via an electricity retailer) to the greater Goulburn community. 

Click here to visit the Clean Energy 4 Goulburn site and learn more about their plans.

The $380m Gunning Solar Farm is about 50km west of Goulburn (and is still in early development stages) but other than that there aren’t any other solar farms in Goulburn right now. 

Community Solar Farms

Earlier this year investors sunk over $3m into Australia’s largest community solar project in Canberra – the Majura Solar Farm. This is expected to be completed in 2018 also and, with 533 backers, certainly won’t be the last time we see community solar farms being built in Australia. Bringing the power back to the people, especially in rural areas, is going to get a lot larger over the coming years. 

See a video about the Goulburn community solar farm below! 

sonnenCommunity – Info, Australia Release Date?

sonnenCommunity is a peer-to-peer energy-sharing solution which has been live in Germany (with a small expansion in Italy) for over three years. The nationwide, cloud-based, virtual power plant is comprised of around 8,000 homes with storage panels and a sonnenBatterie and has been growing rapidly. With their recent announcement of an American sonnenCommunity and rapid expansion of sonnen in Australia (including their sonnenFlat flat rate electricity offering), how long will it be until we see the service in Australia? 

About sonnenCommunity

sonnenCommunity in Europe Statistics
sonnenCommunity in Europe Statistics (source: sonnenbatterie.de)

According to the official site, it’s a ‘community of sonnenBatterie owners who are committed to a cleaner and fairer energy future’. The site has a live widget showing the feed-in for the last 12 months, which was showing almost 15 million kWh and the grid consumption, which was a little over 8 million. This means the prevention of almost 9 million tonnes of co2. Amazing statistics! 

We’ve also embedded a video below about the service – give it a watch and let us know in the comments if you have any questions.

sonnenCommunity in Arizona, USA

sonnen announced a partnership with Mandalay Homes this week, which will bring their ‘Clean Energy Communities’ initiative to 3,000 homes in Arizona. This will mean the deployment of over 10GW of solar panels and 11.6MW of battery storage systems in the ‘Jasper’ community in Prescott Valley. 

As America has many different grids and operators, the homes will be connected to local utility Arizona Public Service (APS). The systems will trade electricity between themselves and will try to minimise flow back into the APS grid and maximise the amount of power bought from the sonnenCommunity in peak times (3-8pm). When required, the sonnenBatteries will recharge from the grid during off-peak times (2-5am). 

sonnen Director of Business Development Olaf Flohr estimated in PV Magazine that the system will allow Jasper residents to be 75-80% energy independent and that bills will be around $24 USD per month. 

sonnenCommunity in Australia

sonnenCommunity was easier to launch in Germany because they have one interconnected grid system – which means sonnen was able to cut out the utility companies and work directly with the grid operator to launch their service. 

Usually, a regional utility company will manage the sale, distribution, and energy movements through the grid. It’ll be interesting to see how sonnenCommunity fares in America – this ‘trial run’ will see how much opportunity there is to expand in areas such as Australia. 

Given the fact that Australia is a world leader when it comes to household solar installations, it’d make sense to bring the service over here. Watch this space! 

Enova becomes community solar generator.

Byron Bay based community solar company Enova have become a generator as well as a reseller of renewable energy, pushing them one step closer to taking on the ‘dirty’ energy companies with their environmentally friendly product. They don’t, however, have any large-scale solar or wind farms to generate or sell this energy – the vast majority of their energy will be generated by small systems. We’ve previously explored the idea of community solar farms, but this takes it one step more granular – household level PV solar generation and distribution is a really interesting model and we’re excited to see how it works for Enova (and who else decides to give it a shot). 

Enova’s Community Solar Timeline

Enova - Community Solar
Enova – Community Solar Power (site: enovaenergy.com.au)

Enova boosted their solar feed-in tariff to 16c/kWh around 8 weeks ago in what may have been preparation for this new business move – they have an 18kW system on their office rooftop to show that everyone can be part of the community solar revolution – and the energy doesn’t have to come from massive, billion-dollar investments – everyday users can play their part in wresting power (pun unintended) back from the major retailers. 

Tony Pfeiffer, managing director of Enova, was quoted as saying “Fossil fuels are on the way out and complete reliance on large- scale energy generation will not be far behind.” Pfeiffer discussed his ideas with regards to the future of energy production – writing that “The future is all about locally generated and locally consumed renewable energy and Enova is making that possible right here, right now, beginning in the Northern Rivers region of NSW.”

According to a statement on Enova’s website, they’re able to meet approximately 40% of existing user requirements with this model – so it’ll be interesting to see what level of success they have and if it helps pave the way for community solar generation and community owned solar. We’ll keep you posted! 

Community Solar in Canberra – Majura Solar Farm

Investors in the Australian Capital Territory have put $3.07 million into Australia’s largest community solar project – which will be built on a vineyard in Canberra. Community solar isn’t a new thing in Australia – but it’s certainly gathering steam (or sunlight) as rising energy prices and rapidly improving solar power technology is encouraging people to invest in renewable energy.

Community Solar – The SolarShare Community Energy Majura Solar Farm

Community Solar - Majura Solar Farm
Community Solar – Majura Solar Farm (source: serree.org.au)

The $3m solar plant is going to be built at the flat land at the bottom of the valley at Mount Majura Vineyard (since wine grapes are best grown on slopes this is currently unused land) and will consist of 5,000 solar panels. The Majura Solar Farm will be built over approximately three hectares and is expected to produce 1.9GWh of electricity per year, which it is planning on selling directly to the ACT government.

Lawrence McIntosh from SolarShare said that, pending approval, they are hoping to have the farm built in 2018.  The ‘SolarShare Community’ applied to sell the energy at a fixed price to the ACT government –  for $200/Mwh ($0.20 / kWh) over a 20 year period. No word on whether this is a bit hopeful but we’ll see (click here for the annual volume weighted average spot prices) how they go, given that this is the largest community owned solar plant in Australia, in terms of output. According to the Canberra Times, the feed-in tariff (FIT) amount is still under consideration. A spokeswoman from the ACT Environment and Planning and Sustainable Development was quoted as saying “The Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability will make the final decision regarding the outcome of the process”.

533 backers are part of the community solar project which comes hot on the heels of private solar investment in Australia growing exponentially over the past few months.