7 May, 2021
Exciting Possibility of Community Renewable Energy for St. Arnaud
IT all started with Margaret Fyffe talking about her passion to establish a renewable energy installation in St. Arnaud at a meeting of SCAN, and resulted in a small but energetic group of people forming the St. Arnaud Community Renewable Energy Association Inc.
This group is in the early stages of determining the feasibility of a community power station in St. Arnaud.
The group has mused at how situations change: St. Arnaud did have its own power station and locals can still remember it operating as the sole supplier of electricity for the town.
The proposed power station will make the electricity supply in St. Arnaud more reliable as well as providing renewable energy.
The town is more vulnerable than most areas because this district is on the end of a power network from Charlton.
Nationally, our country will be facing the shut-down of a number of aging coal-fired power stations in the next few years with the recently announced Yallourn plant closing in 2027, five years ahead of the scheduled closure.
The St. Arnaud community owned renewable power station will contribute to the growing gap in electrical supply in the western region of Victoria.
Installing and operating a renewable energy power station including mega batteries will ensure our region contributes to reducing carbon emissions and will also realise the value of green energy for consumers and investors alike.
Business Case development
The Steering Committee has made presentations to state and federal governments and recently to Regional Development Victoria as a result of the support of Richard Bales who has been of enormous assistance.
The initial funding that the committee is seeking will be used to develop a business case that identifies technology, community ownership, legal, financial and Interconnection to Powercor distribution network, retail and wholesale pricing and structures.
In addition, the business case includes the objective of assessing the current energy status of the district; the technical requirements for the power station; and the business model which will meet all of the requirements of the investors, rooftop solar owners, electrical consumers and the environment.
The proposed power station will have a significant output and consist of solar panels and/or smaller scale wind turbines, if thought to be a benefit, and batteries.
Details and advantages
Typically, the output power may be in the 2 MW range and lithium ion battery storage in the 5 MWh range based on containerised 1MWh modules similar to the larger installations used in South Australia.
If thought beneficial during the business case development stage, several mid-range wind turbines may be included that will not have the noise levels nor the visual impact of the much larger turbines installed in places like Waubra.
This will allow both existing and new rooftop solar systems to be voluntarily included in the scheme with aim of paying a premium to the current feed in tariff (FiT) offered currently by retailers.
The objective of this project, other than the obvious energy provision, is for community ownership to create our own future rather than accept whatever comes down the line.
Consequently, the project aims to provide a secure and profitable investment for any investors with emphasis on local communities.
The intention is to provide low cost renewable energy supplies, regular dividend payments to investors and capital gain over time.
The project will allow sale of electricity to consumers who wish to join the system with prices to be cheaper than any that electricity suppliers are currently charging.
Also purchase of electricity from new and existing rooftop solar systems at a higher rate than is currently offered to new subscribers.
A program of upgrades and replacements will ensure and maintain the power station for a longer life than the predicted life of the individual components.
Finally, the project will provide local employment opportunities for skilled operational and maintenance technicians, engineers and management.
Progress so far
The Steering Committee has developed a project definition and proposal for the power station and the Association has embraced this idea with an enormous amount of excitement.
There has been a meeting between the Association and Rural Development Victoria, University Victoria, Northern Grampians Shire, where the proposal for the power station was presented and funding was requested for the development of a comprehensive feasibility study / business case that includes community ownership as a central theme.
The proposal was well received.
Barry Batters raised the project with Dr Anne Webster, Federal MP for Mallee, who is a strong advocate for the region and the project details have been provided to Angus Taylor, Federal Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction.
The Steering Committee is also planning to contact State Ministers as well.
Community to be kept informed
The St. Arnaud community will be informed about the progress of this community-owned project as the business case is developed and significant milestones are achieved.
Members of the community that are interested in joining the Association can ring Anton Atkinson on 0418 322 715.