MAJURA VALLEY COMMUNITY SOLAR FARM

Our Flagship Project

We are delivering a 1MW solar project opportunity in the Majura Valley on the outskirts of Canberra. This will be the largest community owned solar facility in Australia and we are very pleased to be able to develop this for the Canberra community.

Quick Statistics

Greenfield Project

Greenfield Solar Array

  • 5,000 solar modules
  • Co-owned by 400 to 600 local community members
  • Power for approximately 250 Canberra homes
  • 1.8 GWh of electricity each year
  • 1600 Tonnes CO2 abatement each year
  • 3 hectares
 

Location

Nestled between the old Majura Rd and the new Majura bypass the site will be on the Majura valley tourism trail and be a part of an area which demonstrates the bush capital vision of Canberra. The area combines local agriculture and produce with nearby institutions like the Winery and Truffle farm and can now boast to being a focal point for local communities transitioning to a renewable future through innovation in sustainability.

A map of the proposed site is shown below (click the image for a larger view):

Triangular shaped project site located on the wedge of land at the intersection of Majura Rd and Majura by pass.

We have had some great feedback from community stakeholders in the nearby areas and are very interested in any feedback, questions, queries or comments on this proposal from any member of the community.  Please send any feedback to feedback@solarshare.com.au. Below you’ll find some of our letters of support.

This site has been in Development by solar developer Solar Fields who has already completed studies and investigations into the suitability of the site. You can view a selection of these below, Please note that the block to the south is also being used for a solar project (but not one by SolarShare), some of the documents below cover approvals for the whole (combined) site:

Funding and Finance

While it is a sizeable project for the ACT, it will not be the largest by any means. As a comparison, it will be roughly 5% of the size of the array which is installed on the Monaro highway at Royalla.

We estimate participation from 400 to 600 community members, with investments ranging between $500 and $100,000 per member.

dollar coin

The major portion of the shareholder investments will go towards setting up the solar farm, including equipment purchase and construction costs. The various components of the cost include civil works, installation labour, electrical work, grid connection hardware, cables, breakers, inverters and of course, the solar panels.

SolarShare is part of the ACT government’s Community Solar initiative to sell the electricity under a Feed in Tariff contract. Under the ACT Government’s community solar initiative, SolarShare will be able to sell the energy into the energy network and receive 19.56c for each kilo-Watt-hour (kWh) for electricity generated. As a comparison, electricity for homeowners costs around 25 c/kWh in the ACT (1 December 2018).  Each year the plant is projected to earn over $360,000 in revenue. The profits from this sale of electricity will be returned to our member investors.

 

Technology and equipment

The solar PV modules are mounted in arrays facing solar North providing maximum capture of the available sunlight. The final selection PV modules will be made from a short list of top tier brands which includes Trina and Q-Cells. The PV modules are connected to three phase string inverters which deliver an efficiency more than 98% and provide a 10 years product warranty.

Panel Close up

The solar arrays will be mounted on mounting brackets which are positioned into place utilising laser locators to ensure accuracy and correct siting. The mounting  system is specially designed for the installation of solar PV modules and supports penetrate the ground to a level of no more than 1600mm reducing the environmental effects of the project and do not require any concrete.

A DC array of 1,260kW has been selected to accompany the 1MWac generator; this ensures that the full MW of production can be in use for a greater period throughout the day.

The solar PV power generation system will utilise both DC and AC over voltage protection and external surge diverters to protect the equipment against environmental impact and include DC and AC isolators for safe operation and maintenance.

To ensure maximum efficiency and reliability, certified DC and AC cabling will be installed to minimize the power losses and to meet local and national electrical regulations.

A main distribution panel with customer metering, protection relay and monitoring equipment will be installed and will be designed to meet Evo Energy (previously known as ActewAGL Distribution) requirements and regulations. Perimeter protection fencing is proposed with signage and a locked access gate.

 

Project Risk Management

As with any development that relies on future returns, there is an element of risk in investing in a solar farm.  The solar industry has had a history of volatility regarding equipment and subsidy pricing. Equipment prices may vary between project conception and construction, due to global fluctuations in supply or demand of solar equipment or aspects such as exchange rates or other events with unforeseen economic impact. Currently, SolarShare’s officers and board have no reason to believe that such an event is likely to occur. However, due to their very nature, these unforeseen events cannot be predicted with certainty.

SolarShare has a board of Directors that maintains and regularly updates the risk register. Our offer Information Statement contain a full description and disclosure of the risks the project may face. We strongly recommend you read this document in full before making a decision to invest.

SolarShare’s insurance policy will cover replacement or repair needed due to equipment failures or other events which cause disruption in electricity generation. However, if due to unavoidable circumstances, the generator is out of service for a significant period, it would likely result in a loss of income.

For a project selling power through a Feed in Tariff contract, if the Feed in Tariff legislation is repealed then the Feed in Tariff contact with the energy retailer may be revoked. (click here to learn about the different types of contracts for the sale of solar power) SolarShare believes this to be unlikely, due to the large number of homeowners, businesses and other voters whose income from solar installation on their own private properties would also be reduced if the feed in legislation was repealed.

Ready to join?

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Register here to become part of Australia’s largest community-owned solar project

 

 

Q&A on the Majura Solar farm

What is the fundraising process?

There are two investment rounds for the flagship project: “T1 Seed Funding” and “T2 Construction Funding”.

In the T1 Seed Funding round in 2016, SolarShare raised $125,000 from 20 people. SolarShare was limited to 20 people for the T1 round, due to a rule in the Corporations Act, also called the 20/12 rule, which permits us to raise funds from no more than 20 people over a 12 month period by this fundraising mechanism.

In recognition of the higher risk profile for T1, SolarShare offered 10 per cent more shares for each dollar invested in the initial round. For all other aspects, shares issued in the seed round will have the same rights as shares in the second investment round.

Round two (T2 – main round) investors should inform themselves to understand and accept the Majura Community Solar farm’s risk profile that is detailed in the Offer Information Statement. It is important that you read and fully understand these risks if considering the main round.

In recognition of the generally lower risk profile, T2 investors will purchase shares at $10.00 per share. The minimum investment amount in T2 will be $500 except for a small number of people who registered to invest $350 before the minimum was raised.

The T2 investment round is open from 14th December 2018 to the 26th of February 2018.

What are the main differences in risk between the seed investment round and the main investment round?

Investors in the main round (Round Two) will have the risk profile associated with owning an asset. This includes sunlight and climate variability, unforeseen site conditions during construction, and plant operational risks such as outages.

As well as the asset ownership type risks above, seed round investors have three other important sources of risk to be aware of:

  • ACT Government policy relating to the Feed in Tariff may change, either as a result of the election or as a result of other factors.
  • SolarShare may not be successful in its application for the feed-in tariff.
  • SolarShare may not secure sufficient funding in the main investment round to proceed.

Both rounds have other risks than those detailed in this answer and it is important to read the disclosure information in the T1 Seed Funding (Round one) information memorandum and T2 Construction Funding (Round two) Offer Information Statement (OIS) thoroughly prior to making an investment decision.

What happens if SolarShare receives too few registrations to fund the solar farm? Will the project still go ahead if some of the people who register decide not to invest?

Yes the project will still proceed. The board will consider the options available. These include:

  • Extending the time for which SolarShare is open for investment
  • Negotiating a smaller project size with the solar farm developer

What happens if SolarShare receives more registrations than the value of the solar farm?

If the offer period results in an oversubscription, SolarShare will use reasonable endeavours to:

  • Allocate shares based on the date the investor originally registered their investment interest on SolarShare’s website, and the number of shares for which they registered.
  • If an investor applies for more shares than they originally registered for, allocating any additional shares only after all registered investors have been allocated their registered allotment, rounding to the nearest convenient parcel of shares.
  • If this still results in oversubscription, scaling back the additional shares allocated by capping the additional shares offered.
  • If the offer is still oversubscribed, board will determine the methodology of allocation of additional shares on a basis the board deems reasonable with consideration given to the objectives of the company.

 

Who is investment in the T2 – Construction Funding open to?

Investment in T2 – Construction Funding will be open to all ACT Residents.

 

Industry experts have recently quoted cost for construction at market rates of under $2/Watt, resulting in an estimated construction cost of $2 million for a 1MW array. Why is more capital than this required in the fundraising?

There are two sections to this response: – We are building a solar farm that is 1.26MW DC, and 1 MW AC. The plant is designed with more solar panel (DC) capacity than the inverter capacity (AC) to maximize the financial return on the ACT Government Feed-In Tariff.

The base construction price is $1.57/watt to build and an additional $0.20/watt to connect to the Evo Energy network. Included in our capital raising are the costs for the solar farm developer to secure the land and approvals, the costs of establishing the community investment offer and a contingency budget. The costs of a solar farm are not directly scalable with regard to size, nor do the costs for a farm necessarily decrease the larger the farm is. Our farm at 1.26 MW is smaller than most utility scale solar farms, and as a result the cost is at the upper end of the scale of costs for utility scale farms.

Can a new Government in the ACT reduce the feed-in tariff rate once it is awarded?

Changing Government policy is within the powers of all Governments.To date no Government has retrospectively changed, nor has noted any public intention to retrospectively change, any renewable power generation FiT support Act in the ACT.

SolarShare’s Board considers this an unlikely action for any government as to do so would risk undermining the trust that investors need to place in government decisions to ensure a stable investment environment.

 

As the feed-in tariff is 19.5 cents for 20 years, does SolarShare have to sell all power to ACT Government only?

No, we do not have to sell only to the ACT Government. The ACT Government’s feed-in tariff policy means that we can sell the energy to a participant in the wholesale market and the Energy distributor will pay the difference between the wholesale price and the 19.5 cent feed-in tariff.

 

Is the 19.5 cents per kilowatt hour feed-in tariff guaranteed for twenty years?

The ACT Government feed-in tariff creates a contract between us and Evo Energy (Previously known as ActewAGL distribution).

It is also worth nothing that ActewAGL distribution is 51 per cent owned by the ACT Government.  Within the feed-in tariff deed there is also a treasury guarantee that stipulates that if a future Government were to repeal the legislation then the ACT Treasury would pay the amount of the guarantee.

 

What happens after 20 years, when the project reaches the end of its life?

As the equipment reaches the end of its life the board will consult with members, the host site, and other stakeholders to decide on the best course of action. One of two general paths may be taken:

  • Members will have the opportunity to re-invest their funds enabling SolarShare to purchase new equipment to continue operation of the solar farm. This is known as ‘re-commissioning’
  • Initial invested capital will be returned to members and the project will be decommissioned.

During the life of a SolarShare project, SolarShare may pay back to its members some of the invested capital as well as the dividend for that period.

Will there be an insurance policy?

Yes. SolarShare has insurance quotations that covers operational risks to the Majura Community solar farm site and related liabilities.

SolarShare’s insurance does not cover investors’ funds.

Is there individual shareholder liability in the fundraising rounds?

There is no individual shareholder liability. However, any investment is not without risk and it may be appropriate to seek independent advice if unsure.

If there is a bank loan to assist with the financing, will interest paid on the bank loan be higher than the return from the solar farm?

The interest rate expectations we have been given from banks are lower than SolarShare’s current financial model’s estimated rate of return.

What is the estimated construction time? Will the solar farm come online straight away or in stages?

Once begun, construction will only take a few of months, however in our timeframe we have prepared for a slower construction process in case of delays. As soon as it is built it will be connected to the power grid, and as soon as it is connected to the power grid it will start generating an income. It will be connected and turned on as a single unit.

Will it be possible to track online the energy generation in real time?

Yes, this is already done at other sites that Epho have developed and constructed. This will be easy to do when we set up the solar farm.

What happens after 20 years?

After the 20 year time frame of the project we can either recapitalize or decommission the equipment. We have budgeted for decommissioning, however pending reaching an agreement with the farmer for continuing the lease and securing a suitable ongoing off-take agreement it will be feasible to upgrade the equipment and continue operating.

 

What are the terms of the sub-lease on the winery’s land?

It is a 20 year sublease, indexed to CPI. It will be a registered sublease and therefore has similar legal standing to the ACT Government lease the winery owner holds over their land.

 

What will be ongoing operating expenses after construction of the solar farm is completed?

Maintenance costs, the lease, insurance and interest on the loan facility (if needed) are our largest expenses.

The system will be electronically monitored so we will be able to track the energy production against the expected energy production. This means our maintenance provider will immediately be able to see if something is not right.

We intend to keep the option run sheep under the panels to keep the grass down. Cleaning will not be necessary unless something unusual occurs – such as a flock of birds laying droppings on the panels or an unusual dust storm. The panels will be tilted so that rain will easily clean the surfaces.

 

Is the 1MW size limitation set by government or by some other factor?

The primary reason for this size is the Government’s imposed 1MW limit. We could build a larger farm however we would sell at wholesale prices without any feed-in tariff support.

 

Have you undertaken any scientific testing regarding glare affects from the solar farm to residents, motorists, aircraft and/or pilots and if so, what are the findings of those tests?

The NCA requested applicants engage services of a suitably qualified professional to prepare an air safety study which would assess the glare and reflectivity of the proposal. The reports were ‘The Mount Majura Solar Farm – Glare Analysis’, prepared by CBRE and ‘Solar Glare Aviation Hazard Evaluation Engineering Report’ prepared by Canadian Solar – based in Canada and both reports concluded that whilst some level of glare is to be expected from the solar arrays, the impact of this glare to surrounding land uses, vehicles or aircraft is ‘low potential’ and not likely to be hazardous.

 

What are the social dividends of this project for the local economy?

There is evidence that a community owned project generates 7 to 9 times the local economic impact compared to a project owned by external financiers outside the local area. This is because the proceeds for the activity go back to the local community1.

We also have small collaborations planned with the University of Canberra and the ANU for honours or graduate students to undertake further study into our project and use the project data for their research.

[1] Original Report: Bell, J; Booth, E (2010) The economic benefits of on-farm energy clusters in Aberdeenshire, SAC consulting Australian context: Nichols, R (2011) Renewable energy as an alternative farm income, Nuffield Australia Project No 1104