Upstart electricity retailer Powershop can now add micro-hydro to its green power offering in Victoria, after the completion and commissioning of a community developed run-of-river hydro power system in the Yarra Valley this week.
The Kimberley Powerhouse, named after the local community bank’s former chair, has been in the works for more than a decade, through a collaboration between government, local business and the Warburton community.
It uses water from Warburton’s Ythan Creek to generate power via an Australian-built turbine that will produce a maximum of 100kW, before returning the water back to the creek.
Power generated by the micro-hydro project will be purchased by Powershop – which contributed to funding for the project – and any income from the sale of the electricity will be managed by Upper Yarra Community Power (UYCE), to repay the project’s costs.
From there, any profits will go to Warburton and Yarra Junction Community Bank branches (operated by the Upper Yarra Community Enterprise) and then back to the community via established sponsorship programs.
“The hydro system provides the town with a renewable energy option and a return of sustainable profits to the community,” said O’Shannassy Ward Councillor, Jim Child in comments on Monday.
“Central to the success of the project has been the collaboration of the Warburton and Yarra Junction Community Bank branches, Yarra Ranges Council, Victorian State Government, Powershop, our local tradespeople, the builders of the system River Power Tasmania and many local community members,” said Child.
UYCE Executive Officer, Geoff Vickers, said the project would serve as an inspiration for other communities looking at miniature hydro projects.
“The Community Hydro Scheme is incredibly important to our town as it provides the community with valued self-reliance and the ability for it to generate its own income and help determine its future,” he said.
“The project shows what can happen when community, business and government combine for the greater good.
“We’re proud that this initiative can act as a blueprint for other community led mini hydro schemes.”
The project was funded with $450,000 from the Victorian government’s New Energy Jobs Fund and $650,000 funding from UYCE, along with $100,000 in-kind support from Yarra Ranges Council and Powershop.
For Powershop, the Warburton Community Hydro Project is the latest investment in renewables that has helped the NZ-owned retailer deliver a 5 per cent price cut to its Australian customers.
As we reported here, the company signed power purchase agreements with wind and solar farms in Victoria and New South Wales, as part of a huge deal secured in February.
That deal also meant that Victoria’s biggest solar project, the 200MW Kiamal Solar Farm near Ouyen, could be built by Total Eren, a joint venture that combines the French oil giant and a renewable energy developer.
Powershop is also signed up to take the output from the 54MW Salt Creek wind farm west of Melbourne, and part of the output from CWP’s 135MW Crudine Ridge wind farm, being built south of Mudgee in NSW.