CORENA – Solar Power For The Community, By The Community

CORENA community solar energy projects

For more than 4 years, Citizens Own Renewable Energy Network Australia (CORENA) has been utilising people power to help community groups install solar.

CORENA is a not-for-profit group that through donations, provides interest-free loans to community organisations to pay for solar power system installations and energy efficiency measures. Repayments on these “Quick Win” solar project loans are then used to help fund further projects.

Among CORENA’s recently completed Quick Win projects was the provision of an interest-free loan to Tasmanian community radio station Coast FM for a 5kW solar installation at its radio transmitter station at Table Cape. The group has also finished funding its biggest project to date, a 38kW solar installation for Apprenticeships Queensland.

Since it was founded in 2013, CORENA has funded 17 solar projects.

“Our last few Quick Win projects have been completed without any fanfare or requests for donations because, strangely enough, we already had enough funds from donations and loan repayments before we had projects to fund,” said CORENA Patron, Monica Oliphant OA.

A Solar Pioneer

Ms. Oliphant has a long association with solar, stretching back over decades. She worked as a Principal Research Scientist for 18 years at  the Electricity Trust of South Australia (ETSA) and has been involved with a number of major committees focused on renewable energy issues.

Ms. Oliphant was recognised in the 2015 Queen’s Birthday Honours list for distinguished service to the renewable energy sector and has also been inducted into the Australian Solar Council Hall of Fame. As well as her CORENA work, Ms. Oliphant is currently Adjunct A/Professor at several universities – University of South Australia (Sustainable Energy Centre), Flinders University and Charles Darwin University.

CORENA’s Impact

To date, CORENA and its supporters have enabled funding of Quick Win projects to the value of $224,025.

“Altogether 140kW of solar PV or energy efficiency equivalent has been installed, and 280MWh of grid electricity has been avoided,” says CORENA Chair, Margaret Hender.

Three of CORENA’s earlier Quick Win projects have already completed loan repayments, and those organisations are now enjoying the full electricity bill savings their solar panels are providing.

The latest project CORENA is seeking funding for is an 8.125kW solar power system for Mansfield Kindergarten in Victoria. At the time of publishing, just over $4,300 had been contributed towards the goal of $12,750. You can learn more about CORENA, the project and how you can contribute with as little as $10 here.

As well as Quick Win, CORENA is also funding larger projects. Originally called “Big Win”, the intention was to fund a 50MW solar thermal plant with storage. Until the funds required for large scale projects of this nature are available, it is shifting focus to “Breakthrough” projects, including one that aims to address issues that make installing solar panels and energy efficiency solutions on/in rented properties challenging.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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