Plans to add battery storage to a 1.8MW community solar farm planned for the NSW Southern Tablelands town of Goulburn will now go ahead after the project secured a $2.1 million grant from the state government.
Not-for-profit group Community Energy 4 Goulburn (CE4G) said on Tuesday that the grant, part of the NSW government’s Regional Community Energy program, would also give certainty to locals who wanted to invest.
The project has come a long way since CE4G was set up four years ago, with the aim of building a 1MW(AC) solar farm that could be co-owned by Goulburn residents for as little as $400 a share.
In August last year, the group secured a contract with local outfit Komo Energy for development services of the now-bigger solar farm.
Komo Energy – which was co-founded by occasional RenewEconomy contributor Jonathan Prendergast – said at the time that the deal would see it finalise property, planning and procurement of EPC services for the solar farm, and ready it for community investment.
“Since we started this project, the technology has improved so rapidly that we are now able to build a 1.8MW(DC)/1.2MW(AC) farm instead of 1MW(AC) at less than the original cost,” said CE4G president Ed Suttle.
“And because batteries are now an important part in stabilising the grid, the NSW government has seen the advantage of batteries and are supporting the project with this substantial grant.”
“We simply would not have been able to include a battery component without the assistance of the (grant),” Suttle said.
Komo Energy’s Prendergast said this week that the addition of a battery would showcase new technology, allow the solar farm to access better pricing, and operate as a stabiliser on the grid.
“We hope this will encourage more community renewable projects to include storage to help meet peak demand,” he said.
NSW energy minister Matt Kean said the government hoped the grant would help the Goulburn community take control of their energy bills and benefit from the economic opportunities presented by an evolving energy system.
“These innovative renewable energy projects will help to make electricity more reliable and affordable for our regional communities,” Kean said.
“The project has had a few twists and turns along the way, adjusting through a tumultuous time in the Australian energy market,” CE4G’s Suttle added.
“The grant validates the project, and now we have a clear path for approvals and fund raising. The hard work really starts now.”