THE Wonthaggi State Coal Mine could have another exciting string to its bow if a project bid to link old energy with new energy comes to fruition.
Details about the multi-faceted project were leaked to the community at a Community Energy briefing session, hosted by the South Gippsland Shire Council, last Wednesday, at which a broad range of other energy initiatives were discussed.
But it is the latest offering from the Energy Innovation Co-operative, whose patron is former State MP, Susan Davies, which offers the most promise.
South Gippsland Shire Sustainability Officer Heidi Hamm revealed that a grant application was being made to fund an 80mW solar plant to be located at the State Coal Mine in Wonthaggi.
Under the Energy Jobs Fund, the project could be eligible for between $50,000 and $1 million in funding, although the Energy Innovation Co-operative is likely to pitching for funds at the top end of that scale.
Overall, the project will be worth in excess of $1.5 million and while the solar plant will be a feature of the project, there are plans to also develop an energy information and education centre to enhance what’s already being offered at the site.
The project is at an advanced stage of development and is likely to go ahead as a staged project even if it misses funding this time around.
The power from the solar plant would be used on site at the State Coal Mine and would also be fed into the grid. Funds raised or saved will be used as seed funding for other Community Energy projects locally.
The bid has already attracted strong support from other local community energy organisations, the shires and government authorities.
Success or otherwise with the funding bid will be known soon.
A spokesperson from the Energy Innovation Co-operative declined to comment at this stage.
Ms Hamm provided councillors an “activity update” about what’s been happening locally on the community energy front and the fact is, if you’re not considering adding solar, at the very least to your workplace, you should be looking into it.
“Community Energy is about communities generating their own power and then managing their own energy,” said Heidi, or possibly getting together to secure a better deal on power with a group buy.
“Community Energy has been around for a long time in Australia, hitting its peak with the uptake of solar in 2010 when the tariffs were high.”
But she said the cheaper cost of solar equipment these days means that while the feed-in tariff has been reduced substantially, there’s still a lot to be gained from putting in solar, especially at sites where usage is high during the day.
Ms Hamm explained that there were several other local organisations promoting various projects, including the development of an energy hub at Mirboo North.
Both South Gippsland and Bass Coast devote resources to promoting community energy initiatives in their areas and while it’s hardly “roads, rates and rubbish”, it’s an area of their work that can have considerable benefits for the community, not least through the creation of jobs.