Investing in community: Where solar makes sense


A remote Aboriginal community and investors came together to cut bills, reduce emissions—and generate investment returns. ATA’s Andrew Reddaway describes how this innovative project went from proposition to implementation.

The idea for a solar system at Kurrawang Aboriginal Christian Community in Western Australia began with Alternative Technology Association member Robin Gardner (ATA is ReNew’s not-for-profit publisher). Over several years he’s assisted the Kurrawang community with administration through his involvement in Indigenous Community Volunteers and, in the process, he identified the community’s strong potential for solar power.

With the Kurrawang not-for-profit community located between Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie, about 600 km east of Perth, that solar potential is excellent. Until this project, Kurrawang obtained all its electricity from the main Western Australian electricity grid, which is fossil fuelled and charges relatively high electricity tariffs (around 36 c/kWh peak). The community is billed as a single entity and then recovers costs from its 120 residents through meters on each of the 31 houses.

Robin consulted with Kurrawang’s board of directors to gain support for the solar project, particularly Rowena Leslie and Denise Lynch who made the project happen.

Sunny scenarios
The first step was to find out just how much a solar system could benefit the community. Robin sought assistance from the ATA, and we helped model the community’s energy use and potential generation using Sunulator, ATA’s in-house-developed solar calculator.

After exploring several scenarios, the ideal system size was found to be around a 30 kW system. Such a system would displace about 20% of Kurrawang’s grid electricity and is small enough for relatively easy approval by the local electricity distributor. Since all the buildings are billed as a single entity, total demand is quite smooth and it was predicted that exports to the grid would be rare. This helps the economics of the project because the electricity retailer pays little for electricity fed into the grid.

Read the full article in ReNew 136.


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