Hrastnik inaugurates cooperative community solar plant
A 300 KW photovoltaic installation was inaugurated on the roof of the Hrastnik primary school in central Slovenia on 23 January in what is the first cooperative community solar power plant in the country.
The power plant will supply electricity to 16 homes in nearby blocks of flats, the school, Hrastnik town hall and swimming pool, a shop and premises of two companies.
The energy community involves 17 individuals, two companies, the municipality and two municipal institutions, all of which are owners of the solar plant and its consumers.
They are members of the cooperative Zeleni Hrastnik (Green Hrastnik), which was founded in 2022 to run the project with the support of the Hrastnik municipality and the environmental NGO Focus.
The members of the cooperative contributed one-fifth of the funds for the project, the Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Energy chipped in another fifth, while the rest was covered by a low-interest loan from the Eco Fund.
The partners expect to save around 30% on their total electricity costs in the first 13 years, and around 65% once they have repaid the loan. They will only have to cover maintenance and management costs.
Apart from lowering their energy bills, they say other important benefits are that they will be independent from market fluctuations and will also reduce CO2 emissions.
"Pioneering steps may seem difficult, but there are many good examples around the world that, with the right support from the state and other actors, can come to life here and build on the best values of integration, sustainability and building inclusive communities," said Hrastnik Mayor Marko Funkl.
The cooperative's head Božidar Roglič said that only consumers connected to the same substation as the school had been able to join the Hrastnik Solar School Community.
"Considering there has been a lot of interest in connecting other locations in the municipality, we are already working on new projects. The next community solar plant is planned at the health centre," he said.
The model of their cooperative community solar plant has caught interest throughout the country with the Ig municipality one of those that have founded a cooperative for such a purpose.
Boštjan Remic from Focus, which has been involved in the Hrastnik solar plant as part of the project Life IP Care4Climate, pointed to the administrative barriers they had to overcome.
"We hope that the knowledge gained will be useful for everyone interested in establishing community energy self-sufficiency, including in wind farm projects," he said.
He hailed the Hrastnik energy cooperative as an example of a bottom-up just green transition and its solar plant as a model of how environmental projects can benefit local communities.