Hobsons Bay Council paves way for Melbourne’s first community solar VPP

A virtual energy network made up of nearly 4MW of solar power installed across more than 40 buildings is being rolled out by the Hobsons Bay Council, paving the way for the first local government VPP in metropolitan Melbourne.

The Council, which takes in western Melbourne suburbs including Altona, Newport, Spotswood and Williamstown, announced the solar energy network plan in late August, as part of its bid to achieve net-zero emissions for its own operations by 2020 and for the broader community by 2030.

The network will allow the solar power generated across the 40 buildings to be distributed across all Council-owned and leased assets, and then later on down the track to community groups and the wider community.

Longer-term, the plan is to transform the virtual energy network into a “true” Virtual Power Plant (VPP) by adding batteries at a point when the technology becomes more affordable.

The VPP, or Hobsons Bay Community Solar network, would also enable local solar residents or businesses to opt-in to be a producer of energy, a user of energy, or both. It would also allow Council to install solar on tenanted buildings, giving tenants the ability to access cheap and clean solar.

For now, however, the Council is focusing on the government-building solar roll-out, for which the contract value and scope, as well as the details of the successful tenderer, will be announced once the contract has been finalised.

The solar, alone, is expected to slash council emissions by up to 55 per cent over the coming two years, and generate substantial savings by reducing energy costs, which is money that can be put back into the community through the delivery of services and programs.

Meanwhile, the council will embark on an extensive community consultation program over the coming months to invite Hobsons Bay community members to have input on the design of the VPP model.

“In a first for a Council in metro Melbourne, this is a bold and innovative way to deliver cutting edge technology and generate real action in addressing the impacts of climate change,” said Hobsons Bay Mayor Colleen Gates.

“Our solar project has been developed in response to the community feedback we received through our Hobsons Bay 2030 Community Vision.

“I’m really pleased that we will be able to share the benefits of this project with community groups, sports clubs and other tenants of our buildings – not only from a carbon emission reduction perspective but also in helping them save costs. What is also exciting is that residents of Hobsons Bay will also have the opportunity to become part of the VPP.”

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