Victorian town plans "smart energy precinct" to halve industry power costs


A group of local businesses, organisations and community outfits in the Victorian coastal town of Port Fairy is laying the groundwork to develop a multi-million dollar smart energy precinct, to slash community energy costs, cut its carbon footprint, and boost security of supply.
The project – a partnership between businesses Bamstone, Southern Ocean Mariculture, Sun Pharma, not-for-profit Moyne Health Services and utility Wannon Water, with support from Deakin University and South West Community Energy – was launched last month.
The group says the first phase of development – looking into potential sites and technology options – is underway; as is the quest for funding for the project.
Energy generation technology options being considered include wind, solar, biogas, geothermal and wave energy generation. The team is also weighing up smart energy contracts, microgrids and energy storage options.
Ultimately, the hope is that they can reduce energy costs by up to 50 per cent for local businesses and industries, ensuring that they remain competitive, and support jobs in the region.
The fishing town of Port Fairy, on Victoria’s south-west coast, is no stranger to renewables.
In 2015, it became host to the state’s first wave energy project – a 250kW, three-year pilot demonstration installed by Sydney and US-based company BioPower Systems and backed by ARENA and the state government.
And local businesses have been embracing clean energy too.
In the Smart Energy Precinct team alone, Wannon Water is building an 800kW wind turbine in Portland later this year, and will also install 250kW of solar PV at its Warrnambool water treatment plant, reducing grid demand by 40 per cent.
These projects will add to the 100kW of solar PV installed at the Hamilton water treatment plant and 100kW at their Warrnambool office during the last 12 months, as we have reported on One Step.
And Bamstone, which bills itself as Australia’s largest stone processing facility, has installed a 100kW rooftop solar system on its factory roof, that now supplies around 35 per cent of the facility’s energy needs.
Bamstone managing director, and spokesperson for the Port Fairy Smart Energy Precinct, said the multi-million dollar initiative was exciting and important for the region.
“It’s a powerful example of how local leadership can demonstrate solutions for regional development whilst tackling climate change,” Steel said in comments at the precinct’s launch.
“On a per-capita basis, Port Fairy is a high-energy user in comparison with other towns its size in Victoria. This is driven by the large manufacturing sector that is a significant local employer for the region.
“The project will identify how we can reduce Port Fairy’s greenhouse gas emissions and costs to the community.
“By showing leadership, we are helping in the development of innovative solutions to the challenges of climate change while maintaining the liveability of the local community,” he said.
The partnership group will also consider how the precinct could provide spin-offs for the education, training and tourism sectors.
Steel said community and stakeholder consultation would be essential to how the Precinct evolved.
“That feedback will help the partnership to understand the community’s ideas and concerns and will be considered alongside key technical information to also allow us to short-list options before determining a preferred approach.”

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