NSW community solar farm cuts ties with Siemens over Adani coal connection

A 1.8MW community solar and battery project planned for development in the NSW Southern Tablelands town of Goulburn has hit a minor snag after cutting ties with its inverter supplier, Siemens, over the latter’s support of the massive Adani coal mine in Queensland.

Community Energy for Goulburn, or CE4G, is building a community-owned solar farm in Goulburn, supported by a grant from the NSW government, and financed by local community investors keen to keep the profits in the local community.

As One Step reported in March, 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 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. And in March, the plans to add a 400kW/800kWh battery storage system were announced.

But CE4G said on Wednesday that it had told Siemens it was not prepared to use its inverters for the solar farm since the German multi-national had signed up to supply signalling equipment for the rail line being built to service Adani’s controversial Carmichael coal mine.

This was despite Siemens having the “most convenient” inverter solution for combining the project’s solar and battery within a very specific output mandated by Essential Energy, the group’s vice president, Ed Suttle, said.

“Even though Siemens have the right equipment for our particular application, we can’t see any point in trying to reduce the Goulburn community’s carbon footprint while using equipment from a company which is helping Adani cancel out all our efforts,” said CE4G’s Suttle.

“So we have been forced to redesign the project because we are simply not prepared to support a company that is deeply involved with the Adani mine,” he said.

Suttle told One Step on Thursday that the project was still on track to be completed and switched on in mid-2021, and that this “moral decision” – while having some implications in the project’s design – would add two-three weeks at most to the process. CE4G was unable to say at this point who the new inverter supplier would be.

“We know we are all in a dilemma when trying to source ethical solutions in our lives, and it’s impossible to be ‘pure,’ but in life you have to draw the line somewhere and this is such an obvious contradiction that we have decided to say no to Siemens.

“Community energy is an emerging field in Australia, and although it is very strong in Europe, communities here are just beginning to realise that they can own and run their own renewable energy projects and keep the profits in the community rather than in the pockets of large corporations,” said Suttle.

“We think Siemens needs to get on side with communities instead of large polluting companies like Adani and use their considerable clout to help us all transition to a clean energy economy.”

We’re due to complete the build and turn the farm on in mid-2021. This decision has some implications in design, which might take 2-3 weeks to sort out. It may add two-three weeks to the process. Battery back-up. 400kW/800kWh

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