Hepburn Wind, the community-owned organisation that operates the two-turbine facility near the town of Hepburn Springs in central Victoria, is looking to add a 7.44MW solar farm and a big battery of 10MWh.
The planning permit was submitted to the state government this week and, if successful, it will allow the co-operative to double its annual output of renewable energy and help the local shire reach its zero net energy target for 2025 and its zero emissions target for 2030.
“We have been working closely with our landowners, the Liversidge Family, to develop a proposal that will protect the high-quality agriculture landscape,” Hepburn Wind general manager Taryn Lane said in a statement.
“For example, the solar array will be placed on the least arable area on the farm, using a technology called PEG which reduces the footprint of the solar system by over 50 per cent, and the arrays will be a mixture of east-west and north-south orientation which means we can fit the system to the natural topography.”
Lane said the solar farm would optimise the connection point built for the 4.1MW wind farm at a cost of $1.6 million in 2010. She told RenewEconomy that three years of monitoring showed that solar was a good match for the existing wind farm and would help them maximise the output there.
The PEG-designed solar array will be built by Meralli, which has built several similar projects in NSW and Queensland. Lane says there will still be room for sheep to graze in between the 30m by 30m modules, and the array will be located on a plateau that has not previously been used for cropping.
Lane says the permit for the battery was about “future proofing” the facility and there was no plans to build one now, although it might be needed in the future to provide resilience to the local supply in the case of drought or fires elsewhere, and to be ready for the “grid of the future.”
“We just want to be in the game for that,” Lane said.
The solar farm will cost around $6.5 million, and has attracted a $500,000 grant from the state government. Hepburn will seek debt finance for the rest of the amount. It hopes to complete construction by late next year.
“As always, our aim is to make our community more sustainable and resilient, while growing awareness about the need to cut emissions and build clean energy. We hope that this new project will demonstrate how communities can work towards these changes.”