A former timber mill in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges could soon host a community-owned commercial solar array, with a tender process for the government-funded and community-led project set to begin this week.
The Woodend Timber Mill project, which was awarded a $100,000 grant by the Victorian Andrews government in February, aims to install an initial 30kW of solar PV, and then use the tenants’ electricity payments to reinvest in more solar panels, thus creating a “perpetual fund” for community renewables.
Coordinated by the Macedon Ranges Sustainability Group, the initial 120-panel commercial-sized project is expected to cater to most of the needs of the current tenants at the mill, and potentially attract more to the site, presumably with the promise of lower and more stable electricity bills.
Funds generated would be directed to a newly formed Macedon Ranges Renewable Energy Fund.
“We are hoping to reinvest this money on other solar projects and we intend to do that after consulting the Macedon Ranges community on where an appropriate site may be,” Group renewable energy adviser Barry Mann told the Herald Sun.
Mann said his group was also looking at placing an anemometer (wind gauge) in a cleared section of pine forest next month, as it looks into plans to build a community-owned, three-turbine wind farm – a project that was prohibited under the previous Baillieu/Napthine state government.
“We got some great readings when we conducted tests in 2010, but we weren’t allowed to test at our preferred site which we will be able to now,” Man said.
Likewise, with the solar farm, Mann said there had been difficulties getting around energy sector regulations which assumed large commercial enterprises.
“Some of the requirements are really prohibitive for a community group and we are working with the Department of Energy and Earth Resources on exemptions and ways around it,” he said.
This article was first published at RenewEconomy.