Byron Bay community solar and battery project gears up with NSW grant

Plans to build a 5MW solar farm with battery storage in New South Wales’ Byron Shire have been given a leg-up from the state government, after the project was awarded a $3.5 million grant from Regional Community Energy Fund.

The project, which is being developed by local outfit Coolamon Energy, falls in the small smart solar farm category, incorporating 7.4MW DC/4.99MW AC PV of PV panels and a central inverter with DC coupled storage.

Project spokesperson Craig Johnston said the grant funding ensured the incorporation the 5MW/10MWh lithium-ion battery component of the project, which would in turn give the project greater flexibility to deliver “an on-demand element of locally generated renewable energy” in the Byron Shire.

“In terms of delivering value back to the community, we hope to be able to work with Enova Energy to be able to offer Byron Bay residents locally generated renewable energy from the sun from 2021 onwards,” Johnston said.

“We are super excited about this project as it should provide around 7% of the Byron Shire’s energy consumption from locally generated renewable energy.”

The Byron Shire has targeted net zero emissions by 2025 and 100 per cent renewable energy by 2027 for council’s operations, and supports the work of Zero Emissions Byron, a voluntary group that aims to transition the whole of Byron Shire to net zero emissions by 2025.

Last year, the council was itself considering building a ground-mounted solar farm on council-owned land – also 5MW in capacity – to offset its own, and potentially the community’s emissions.

New South Wales energy minister Matt Kean said the grant for the Coolamon Energy project would give the local community better control over cost and supply of energy.

“These innovative renewable energy projects will help to make electricity more reliable and affordable for our regional communities,” Kean said, referring also to the six other projects that had been awarded RCEF grants.

Among them was aforementioned local retailer Enova, which secured just under $1 million in funding for a 2MWh battery it plans to install to implement peer-to-peer trading between 500 of its Northern Rivers customers.

The Byron Bay based Enova has staked a claim as Australia’s first community-owned energy retailer, “formed as a social enterprise to reduce carbon emissions and facilitate the transition to a
renewable energy future.”

It applied for the grant alongside project partners Enosi and University of Newcastle, for the purpose of supporting local communities to generate, store, and share renewable energy.

“We’re thrilled to have succeeded in this NSW Government Regional Community Energy Fund
grant,” said Enova CEO Felicity Stening in a statement on Wednesday.

“It will enable Enova to make its debut into grid-scale energy storage and bring peer-to-peer energy trading to our customers. Enova is absolutely stepping into its role as a leader in helping communities build energy self-sufficiency.”

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