Originally published on the ECOreport.
Three quarters of Denmark’s wind turbines are owned by co-operatives. There are probably more than a thousand clean energy co-operatives in Germany. [1. AEE said 888, with around 140 new co-ops being added per year at the end of 2013.] This idea is newer in British Columbia, but there are already co-operatives in Dawson Creek, Gabriola Island, the Cowichan Valley, and, most recently, the Lower Mainland. Rob Baxter explains how community owned solar comes to Vancouver.
In July 2005, Baxter installed the first city’s grid-tie photovoltaic (electric solar energy) system on the SPEC (Society Promoting Environmental Conservation) Energy Demonstration Centre.
“We’ve been in the business of selling and installing solar for ten years. From the beginning, we’ve always been looking at ways to make it more accessible. Right now you pretty well have to be a building owner and you have to be able to afford the up-front costs. With those community owned model, people who don’t own homes or can’t afford the upfront costs can get involved with a lower entry fee,” he said.
It currently costs $2,000 to become a member of SolShare. Baxter hopes to lower this to the price of a single share ($50) over time, but there are high start-up costs at the beginning. (They were still completing some of the paperwork required by the BC Securities Exchange Commission. )
SolShare installed 90 solar panels at Vancouver Cedar Cottage co-housing in June.
“We are starting to accrue revenue from that project. SolShare is paying dividends quarterly, so shareholders should receive their first dividend at the beginning of November,” said Baxter.
He added, “Once we start paying dividends, people will start realizing this is a more viable model.”
Baxter signed a memorandum of understanding with a multi-unit residential building, but they have only just begun construction. He has also spoken with the owners of another 4 or 5 potential projects.
“This year we will probably only do the one project. Our business plan calls for us to do two projects a year over the next five years,” Baxter explained.
He added, “I think there is really an appetite for this kind of investment vehicle, where you can invest in local, ethical projects.”
Learn more at SolShare’s website.
Photo Credits: from the SolShare installation at Vancouver Cedar Cottage co-housing
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