The solar array on ICC Sydney

A community solar project comprising Sydney’s largest CBD solar installation is now open for public investment.

The public is being offered 519 shares priced at $2750 in the $1.5 million, 520-kilowatt project, which is housed on top of the new International Convention Centre at Darling Harbour, spanning the equivalent of 12 tennis courts.

Earnings per share are estimated at $107 for the 2018 financial year (the first full year of operation), which works out as a 3.9 per cent return on investment. The power purchase agreement also includes a three per cent price increase per kWh a year, according to project creator Sydney Renewable Power Company.

The offer is expected to be particularly attractive to those wanting to support the solar industry but are unable to currently do so, such as apartment dwellers or renters.

SRPC director Andy Cavanagh-Downs told The Fifth Estate the share offer responded to the idea that more than charity was needed to address climate change, and offering financial benefits along with the environmental outcomes could help to spur much-needed change.

“So many people in the community want to see a faster transition towards renewable energy generation than is currently occurring,” he said. “SRPC provides those individuals the opportunity to speed up this transition by allocating capital to the financing of such projects.”

He said it had also been a great way for people outside of the renewables industry to make a contribution, including the directors and volunteers.

There are a number of risks, though, including that the panels might not produce as much energy as forecast, due to poor weather, or even shadowing from new buildings. A 35-storey hotel, ICC Sydney, is being built to the north of the solar array, though has been factored into modelling. What hasn’t been included is potential overshadowing from proposed developments by Grocon at the IMAX site, Mirvac at Harbourside Shopping Centre and a hotel development proposed by Star Casino.

An offer information statement said the board was unable to assess the impact of any of these proposed developments on the business of SRPC beyond the forecast period, as detailed information was not yet available.

Mr Cavanagh-Downs told The Fifth Estate there was some mitigation of risk of overshadowing due to the existing city skyline to the east, the harbour to the north-east, and heritage buildings to the west that limited the likelihood of further build out.

The installation in on-track to start delivering power to ICC Sydney in mid-December, and is expected to contribute up to five per cent of the building’s power needs.

Mr Cavanagh-Downs said without the hard work of SRPC solar wouldn’t have been included on the building.

“It shows you can integrated commercial solar on these types of developments going forward. Hopefully it’s made it easier for similar types of projects to go ahead.”

He said SRPC was “very happy” to share learnings from the project with others considering doing this sort of scale of solar project.

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