Community Owned Renewable Energy - Project Update

 CORE.png

CORE Geelong has been established by Geelong Sustainability to facilitate the transition to a sustainable energy system. We're enabling community investment in renewable energy projects that are financially self-supporting, and return economic as well as social benefits to the community. In short, we’re creating an Energy Democracy!

We’ve come so far over the last few years, it’s worth summarising the journey. Back in 2014 when we surveyed our members and supporters, they overwhelmingly told us we should focus on a community owned renewable energy (CORE) project for Geelong. While it was a big ask, we accepted the challenge and took it in stages.

Firstly we formed a CORE Geelong Task Group to work out what might be possible and how we might do it. Then in 2015 we found some partners and began our first donation model project at the South Geelong Primary School. In total, $13,000 was successfully raised and a 9.25KW solar PV system was installed in May 2016.

In September 2016, we were thrilled to receive a grant through the Victorian Government’s New Energy Jobs Fund for $48,000 to conduct a scoping study for the CORE Geelong Business Case. The funding enabled us for the first time to appoint a paid project coordinator (Dan Cowdell) to progress the CORE project.

Geelong Sustainability has been busy conducting this scoping project over the past six months. The study’s focus was on finding host sites suited to small scale (30-100kW) solar PV systems where the energy generated would be fully utilised behind the meter and under the host’s load. This type of CORE project would enable us to specify proven solar technologies and to find several suitable host sites.

The project is now complete and we are pleased to report it has been an absolute success! We delivered all the intended project outcomes and in addition we far exceeded the scope of the project by being able to deliver a fully documented Business Case for our community solar projects.

Key project achievements included:

  • a robust site assessment methodology and tools
  • a short list of suitable host sites and a confirmed host site for our first project
  • the specification of the preferred solar hardware components
  • comprehensive community engagement and overwhelming community support for the project
  • the establishment of several partnerships with key local organisations including Deakin University and City of Greater Geelong
  • the research and selection of an appropriate business model and the development of an economic modelling tool
  • a fully documented CORE Geelong Business Case for our first project.

 

The project also identified our preferred host site for the first project and confirmed the sites commitment to host a community owned solar system. Once implemented this project could see 150kW of community solar being installed on the roof of a not-for-profit community organisation in Geelong!

CORE-Infographic.png

Our community solar model is designed to have win-win-win outcomes by providing a return on investment for community investors, giving affordable access to solar power for Geelong businesses and community organisations as well as the environmental benefits of more renewable energy and reduced carbon emissions in our region.

Community members can register their interest to support future CORE projects via our website. - Register your interest to invest in community solar

Geelong Sustainability has applied for implementation funding through the second round of the New Energy Jobs Fund. If successful the grant will enable us to establish the first project and build our framework for our replicable self-funding model, laying the foundation for many more community solar projects in Geelong. Geelong Sustainability will aim to implement the first project in late 2017.

The experience gained throughout this project has been documented in our final project report. The report is being made available to other community organisations wishing to establish their own community solar projects. The final report is available on request from CORE Geelong Project Coordinator, Dan Cowdell – dan@geelongsustainability.org.au.

The completion of this project marks the beginning of exciting times for community energy in Geelong.

The CORE Geelong task group has now received a new mandate to develop future projects such as a community solar bulk buy program and research and build our capacity to deliver large-scale renewable energy projects.

To join the CORE team of volunteers working to make these projects happen in Geelong please volunteer here. The team has regular monthly meetings and welcomes newcomers.

Our Community Energy projects are designed so we can all actively participate in our energy future, making renewable energy accessible to all residents of Geelong and take back control of our energy bills from big corporations. We’re also taking action against climate change by driving projects that help not only our local community, but protect our environment for generations to come.