Not-for-profit CORENA secures solar funding for Aus community centres

A renewable energy funding model based on ‘revolving loans’ has helped develop 35kW of community solar projects around Australia, with the completion this week of a solar array at Camden Community Centre in South Australia.

Not-for-profit group Citizens Own Renewable Energy Network Australia (CORENA) said on Monday it had this week completed the latest of its Quick Win projects to be funded by community-sourced interest-free loans.

In total, the program has now been successfully used by four non-profit organisations in three states: Tulgeen Disability Services in Bega (NSW), Gawler Community House (SA), Beechworth Montessori School (Vic), and Camden Community Centre (SA).

Quickwin funding

In total, CORENA has raised $58,771.69 for Quick Win projects. The next project in line, in Nannup (WA), is already half-funded, and a community centre in Ravenshoe (Qld) is queued as Project 6.

“After just four projects the growth potential of our revolving funding model is looking quite exciting,” said CORENA spokesperson Margaret Hender.

“The four projects completed so far have cost a total of $63,460. Climate-concerned citizens donated most of that, but $10,438 of it came from loan repayments from completed projects.”

The loans are repaid over about five years out of the resultant savings on power bills, meaning that non-profit organisations can reduce their carbon emissions without diverting funds from their core

As the projects ‘pay for themselves’, the original donations are then used over and over again in new projects.

“The first project was funded entirely from donations, but already $5,000 of that loan has been paid back into the revolving pool of funds,” said Ms Hender.

“As the number of completed projects increases, an increasing proportion of the cost of new projects is covered by loan repayments.

“Eventually the revolving loan repayments will cover 90%, or even 100%, of the cost of new projects.”

As CORENA’s website explains, these community projects will eventually become self-funding due to the way the donated funding pool revolves.

“A funding pool of around $210,000 will fund one new community solar project every three months. If supporters continue to contribute till there is around $630,000 in the funding pool, that will fund one new project every month, forever,” is sayd.

The group has also revealed plans for its first Big Win project: to build Australia’s first citizen-funded and owned solar thermal plant with storage.

This campaign, says CORENA, aims to connect the 50,000-odd people who regularly turn up at climate rallies and the like with the opportunity to invest in the solar thermal plant.

“The idea is that if 50,000 people chip in an average of $100 each, or set up smaller recurring contributions, we’d soon have the $5 million we need for Stage 1 of the project,” a CORENA spokesperson told RenewEconomy.

“I could talk to politicians until I’m blue in the face in the hope of getting better renewable energy policies, and never know if I’ve had any effect,” said Hender in a statement on Monday.

“But if I put $100, or $10 a week, for example, into solar panels on a roof somewhere, within a matter of weeks my money will be reducing carbon emissions and keep on doing so forever as it is used again and again in future

© 2015 Solar Choice Pty Ltd 

Giles Parkinson