The first Community Solar Cooperative is founded in Ukraine. Residents of the town of Slavutych, the Kyiv region, want to set solar panels on their roofs to earn money and save the environment. Opinion found out how the Community Solar Power Plant will work.
The first field of solar panels will be set on the roofs of non-residential buildings: the community centre and three office buildings. A “pilot” power plant with 350 kW of power is going to be placed here. Now, people are raising money to build this station. “500 euro is a minimal donation. A minimal cost of a share. We dramatically lowered a barrier to the entry of renewable energy resources. Today, it costs 7000 $ – this is how much a private solar power plant with 10 kW of power will cost. Not many people have this sum, but we think it is important to give a bigger category of people a possibility to invest,” Andrii Zinchenko, a co-founder and director of the project, says. He also mentions that the common number of Slavutych solar power plants isn’t estimated yet and it depends on whether the pilot project will be successful.
The concept of the crowdfunding is, so to say, “democratic”: the future income of shareholders depends on the amount of money they invested, but each of them will have one vote in management discussions. “In first two years, only residents of Slavutych will be able to invest. Other people will be able to invest in everything left. It is crucial for us, we don’t want any guys from Kyiv to come here and tell us how we should live,” Zinchenko says. They planned to start the crowdfunding campaign at the end of February or at the beginning of March, but at the time of writing, the organization website says it will begin in 11 days.
The project also offers jobs to local specialists. Slavutych is a town of power engineers. It is tightly connected with the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. “It would be weird if we brought other workers into the town where there are many power engineers, some of whom can work at NPPs. It is highly important for us to make this project local and to show that the town of nuclear power engineers can be something bigger and create new senses,” Andrii Zinchenko says. He says that the town council played an important role in the project.
A cooperative doesn’t necessarily have to be created in collaboration with local authorities. There are models to do it on a private basis. Just in this case, we decided to do it together with the authorities, if they are adequate and encourage our work. It is also useful for the town,” he says. We should mention that in October 2018, a local public utility company, together with three private entities, became a co-founder of the cooperative.
“Solar Town” is ready to share its experience with other regions. “We studied this question, how to make it in three years. We were looking for the right law algorithm because our law system isn’t designed for such things. At first, we were kind of theorists, we were thinking of how we can do it in Ukraine. Then we found the way how to do it practically. In some months, we are going to offer to communities a product, a complex of actions, which will allow them easily launch such projects.”
Such cooperatives already work in other countries. For example, in Germany, according to a German bank, there are more than 700 energy cooperatives: Germans create community solar and wind power plants projects as well as projects on producing biofuel from food waste.
“There is a great change in the energy industry – people refuse to burn dead dinosaurs, instead, they choose renewable resources. 75% of the US territory is covered by networks which belong to people. It happened in the 1930s when the government gave no-interest loans because big monopolists didn’t want to work in villages, but local communities wanted to have energy, then the government gave no-interest loans which people returned and built their own networks,” the founders of Solar Town in Slavutych say.
Text by Polina Mordynska