Solar School Hrastnik (Sončna šola Hrastnik) is a community solar power plant situated on the roof of the Hrastnik Primary School. The power plant will supply energy to the energy community established in an inclusive manner by the Energy Cooperative Green Hrastnik (Zeleni Hrastnik). It is the first example of cooperative community self-sufficiency from renewable energy sources in Slovenia. With a capacity of approximately 300 kW, Solar School Hrastnik will be one of the largest solar power plants for community self-sufficiency in the country. With the electric energy produced by solar power, it will supply 16 households from nearby residential buildings, three public buildings – the municipal building, school, and pool, a small commercial space, and the spaces of two business companies.
The project to establish the solar power plant was led by the Energy Cooperative Green Hrastnik with the support of the Municipality of Hrastnik and the environmental organization Focus. The financial structure of the project is as follows: one-fifth was contributed by cooperative members with initial investments, one-fifth was covered by a non-refundable subsidy from the Ministry for the Promotion of Solarization, and the remaining 60% is covered by a loan from the Eco Fund (Slovenian Environmental Public Fund) with favorable interest rates.
The uniqueness of Solar School Hrastnik lies in its establishment model. All participants in the energy community – 17 individuals, two business companies, the municipality, and municipal institutes – are members of the Energy Cooperative Green Hrastnik, owners of the solar power plant, and simultaneously consumers. The electric energy produced by the solar power plant will be deducted from the consumed energy of the consumers of Solar School Hrastnik based on net metering. In the first thirteen years, their overall cost for electricity consumption will decrease by approximately 30%, and after repaying the loan, it will decrease by about 65%, as they will only cover maintenance and management costs. The independence from market fluctuations is also significant.
In this way, they will achieve environmental benefits such as reducing CO2 emissions and lower amounts on electricity bills. Solar School Hrastnik is the first Slovenian community self-sufficient solar power plant established by a cooperative on the roof of a public building. The cooperative model is the most suitable form for implementing community projects using renewable resources as it preserves benefits in the local community, enables the involvement of the local population, and democratic management of shared resources on the principle of one member, one vote. The process of establishing Solar School Hrastnik was largely participatory from bottom to top. Through workshops organized by the Energy Cooperative Green Hrastnik with the Municipality of Hrastnik and Focus, citizens co-designed the project, allowing a precise distribution of solar power plant capacities and planning consumption for the highest level of self-sufficiency.
Creating a new model for establishing self-sufficient energy communities meant breaking new ground. From the beginning, the goal of the pilot project, which developed through the support program for municipalities “Enough for Everyone” within the LIFE IP CARE4CLIMATE project, was to spread inspiration and, with the gained experience, lay the foundation for multiplication in the coming years. In practice, this is already happening – the Municipality of Ig has already entered energy projects for community self-sufficiency through the newly established cooperative, and interest is also coming from other municipalities. Community energy projects can significantly contribute to the decarbonization of the energy sector. Their benefits are extensive: energy production is shifting into the hands of the people, active participation of the population in the green transition, reduction of the carbon footprint, greater energy independence, and strengthening of the local economy. Municipalities can be an important example and driving force by installing solar power plants for self-sufficiency in their buildings.
The official opening of the solar power plant took place on January 23, 2024. The Minister of the Environment, Climate, and Energy, Bojan Kumer, was also present at the opening.
This article is also available in Slovene language at the following link http://www.s3k.si/novice/soncna-sola-hrastnik-zadruzna-skupnostna-samooskrba-soncna-elektrarna/
Source: Municipality of Hrastnik