Aarhus University (AU) has set itself ambitious climate targets: the university’s CO2 emissions are to be reduced by 35% in 2025 and by 57% in 2030, both against a 2018 baseline. These ambitious goals live up to the Danish government’s goal of reducing carbon emissions by 70% in 2030 against a 1990 baseline. Though Denmark has been a frontrunner in the green transition, citizens need to be involved further if these goals are to succeed in time. The AURORA initiative provides the opportunity for citizens in Aarhus to take ownership of a solar photovoltaic installation that benefits the local community, with a very Danish spirit of “andelstanken”, and opens the discussion on citizen engagement in the green transition.

In the demo site in Aarhus, we aim to build an energy community (“energifællesskab”) at AU, by crowdfunding the installation of 200 kW solar photovoltaic panels on the rooftop of some buildings on the campus. The community will be set up as a cooperative (“solcellelaug”), and everyone will have the opportunity to invest and get annual economic returns. Apart from the solar installations, energy-related public discussions and hands-on workshops are planned for the community. 

The potential site for the solar installation is on the roof of some buildings in Nobelparken, where the university’s school of arts and social sciences currently resides. Installation is scheduled to start in early 2023. Based on a preliminary analysis, 90% of the electricity produced by the crowdfunded rooftop solar installation will be consumed on site by the university.

The university does not own any buildings itself, therefore one of the challenges faced in Aarhus is a more complicated matrix of stakeholders. The team around Marta Victoria is currently in discussion with the university and the building owner on a viable business model for the crowdfunded solar installation. On the other hand, students and employees at the university have shown great enthusiasm and willingness to becoming part of the upcoming energy community. The project had its first public informational meeting with potential participants on 10th March.

The AURORA project is an important building block in Aarhus University's climate strategy. In our energy community, everyone can participate: students, scientists as well as citizens in Aarhus.

Marta Victoria, Associate Professor of Solar Photovoltaics and Energy Systems Modelling

The idea is that we do it bottom-up. We want to raise awareness and empower people. At the university we have many young people that hopefully will become members of the energy community, learn about renewable energy and in the future will choose it.

Zhe Zhang, AU Demosite Project Coordinator

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