A proposal for what could be Victoria’s largest collaborative solar farm is set to be announced on Thursday in Wangaratta, as another regional Australian town seeks to invest in its own energy future.
The large-scale solar project, which is proposed for construction on land owned by the Rural City of Wangaratta, is being managed by Melbourne-based community renewables group Countrywide Energy, in partnership with the local council.
The proposal is for the installation of 14 hectares of solar panels, which Countrywide Energy Director Geoff Drucker says would make it the largest collaborative solar farm in the state.
Drucker believes the costs of technology like solar and wind have reached the point now where energy alternatives are so viable that communities can take control of their energy generation, rather than relying on massive decentralised power stations like Latrobe valley.
“Why would we burn a fossil fuel, burn mountains of fossil fuel, to end up with energy that’s only a tiny percentage of what’s being generated ending at the destination?” Trucker said in an interview recently.
“I think it’s time for communities to be able to take control of the future of where the energy comes from, what they pay for their energy and the ongoing costs in the future.
“At Countrywide Energy, what we do is we go to particularly regional areas… and look for opportunities where there’s an energy issue,” Drucker said.
“We go to these areas and say, is there an opportunity for economic growth in this area if you had more energy, or more reliable energy?
“Are there energy hungry companies that would move to the area if you had more energy?
“We actually look at each area and say what do you need, how can we fund it?
In terms of finance, Drucker says it is not difficult to find people or even funds willing to invest in community energy.
“It’s not a difficult equation, once you’ve built a renewables project whatever it may be, the capital costs are gone, and the cost of running it is very low.”
We will update this story with details on the size, cost and technology of the proposed project once these details are made available.