A community-driven effort to install just under 100kW of solar and 25kWh of battery storage at a former coal mine site in Victoria’s south-east has won state government funding, lending momentum to broader plans to install solar on community facilities across the region, and at other Parks Victoria sites.
State energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio says the Andrews government had awarded a grant of up to $241,840 over three years to the Energy Innovation Co-operative’s “Old Energy-New Energy” project at the State Coal Mine Wonthaggi, on Victoria’s Bass Coast.
The not-for-profit Co-op, which has been working since 2009 to develop and deliver community owned renewable energy projects in the region, applied for the funding through the government’s New Energy Jobs Fund – a $20 million fund, allocated over three rounds, that has so far backed 21 projects.
The Wonthaggi project – which also has the backing of the Bass Coast Shire Council – will install at least 86kW of ground mounted solar panels and 25kWh of batteries at the former mine, providing renewable energy to help pump up to 100,000 litres of water a day, and to power the Visitor Centre and other community facilities at the site.
Ultimately, the project aims to improve both the environmental and financial viability of the State Coal Mine as a tourist centre, and to attract a new, wider audience to the historic precinct using the new energy technology.
“We are very excited by our success with this grant, which will allow us to install such a large solar and battery array locally,” said Energy Innovation Co-op chair Moragh Mackay.
“Locals and visitors alike will be able to see in it action, reducing carbon emissions by more than 150,000kg annually. Getting battery technology up and running locally is especially of interest to many people. This is very exciting news.”
But the State Coal Mine project is just the beginning for the Wonthaggi group. The Co-op also plans to use income earned through the sale of solar power to Parks Victoria to support its Southern CORE (Community Owned Renewable Energy) fund, which has been established to provide financial support, mostly through no interest loans, to community groups wanting to put solar panels on community facilities across the region.
The “Old Energy-New Energy” project will also trial a partnership with Parks Victoria that the Co-op hopes to expand to other sites, and for which a Project Technical Officer will be appointed to assist with the installation at the mine, and at other sites supported by the Southern CORE fund.
Simon Corbell – who last year left his role heading up the ACT government’s nation-leading clean energy transition to become the Renewable Energy Advocate for Victoria – said the State Coal Mine project was “smart and innovative” and a perfect illustration of the clean energy transition.
“It can build community ownership of the opportunities renewable energy can deliver for towns and regions” he said.