Communities are coming together to harness the power of solar energy and reaping the benefits.
There’s strength in numbers, so when it comes to harnessing solar energy, the more the merrier. People across Australia and the world have been coming together to subscribe to shared solar facilities to overcome various obstacles in their efforts to switch to clean energy. For instance, the town of Lismore in New South Wales launched the country’s first community-owned solar project in January 2018. Today, the impact of community solar projects can be seen nationwide, with its unique benefits not just for households, but the environment and the economy too.
In a nutshell
Community solar is essentially a farm of harnessed solar energy that can be used by more than one house. How does it work? Instead of placing panels on individual homes, a grid of panels is installed in a locale to harness power which is then transferred to the homes that subscribe to the farm. This enables homes without a roof or space for panels to enjoy the benefits of solar power.
One for all
We already know the obvious benefits of solar energy like combating climate change, reducing energy expenses and minimising pollution. But there are also a host of benefits that set community solar apart. Let’s take a closer look.
No need to be a homeowner
Are you a renter? Or a homeowner without a roof unsuitable for installing solar panels? Worry not. Community solar allows you to tap into a shared pool of solar energy. For instance, a street in Mooroolbark, Victoria, tried out a small-scale project powering 17 homes using a combination of 10 kilowatt-hour storage batteries and access to the main grid. Only 14 homes have rooftop panels while the others are connected to the grid via inverter technology
No down payment required
As a participant, you can subscribe to your community solar farm at a rate, most often a discounted one, set by your energy provider. There is no need to purchase panels and hence no down payment required.
No installation hassles
Many a time, lack of space or other issues can complicate the installation of an individual solar system. With community solar the problem is moot and you can still continue to make the most of clean, renewable energy. It’s also a good choice if you want to avoid the process of finding a contractor.
No energy dependence
Community solar enables communities to produce their own electricity and this comes with their own set of ancillary benefits. It protects you and your mates from depending on the global energy markets and the unstable price changes and supply disruptions that are so often a feature. For example, following the 2017 energy crisis, more and more communities opted for microgrids to circumvent the issue. Now, they have gone from the threat of rising expenses and outages looming over them, to producing their own renewable electricity. In Kununurra, Western Australia, 99% of the grid’s energy comes from renewable resources while the town of Tyalgum in New South Wales has launched an ambitious solar project that looks to power 100% of the town with renewable energy.
No looking back for the local economy
It is a fact that the solar industry already employs more people than the oil, coal and natural gas industries combined. And the best bit, being a renewable source, there’s no way of the industry receding any time soon. Numurkha in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley, was in the middle of a string of crises. A drought, a failing economy and teams of youth migrating to the bigger cities in search of jobs. That was until the Numurkha Solar Farm was built. Today, the farm supplies clean energy to around 48,000 homes and is employing more and more people.
Community solar is growing in popularity and not just in Australia, as it emerges a viable solution to make solar power accessible and affordable. But we have just merely begun to scratch surface. There’s certainly much more to be done and much further to go, but the future does indeed look bright.