THE Energy Innovation Co-operative’s ‘Old Energy-New Energy’ project will become a reality, after last week’s announcement of a grant of up to $241,840 over three years.
The Old Energy-New Energy idea was initiated by volunteers and supporters of the State Coal Mine Wonthaggi, who wanted to find ways to improve both the environmental and financial viability of the tourism venue, and attract a new wider audience to the historic precinct.
The Energy Innovation Co-operative is a local not-for-profit co-operative that has focused on ‘working together towards a zero emissions community’ since its inception in 2009.
The funding facilitates the first two stages of the wider plans by the co-operative.
At least 86kW of ground-mounted solar panels and 25kWh of batteries will be installed at the mine, providing green power to help pump up to 100,000 litres of water a day from the mine, as well as for the Visitor Centre and other community facilities on the site.
“We are very excited by our success with this grant, which will allow us to install such a large solar and battery array locally,” Energy Innovation Co-operative chair Moragh Mackay said.
“Locals and visitors alike will be able to see it in action, reducing carbon emissions by more than 150,000kg annually.
“Getting battery technology up and running locally is especially of interest to many people. This is very exciting news.”
The co-operative, with a very significant funding pledge from Bass Coast Community Foundation and support from Bass Coast Shire, took up the challenge to develop a viable project.
A background feasibility study work was completed by volunteers, including pro-bono technical advice from local installers Gippsland Solar.
Income earned by the co-operative from the sale of renewable power to Parks Victoria will support the co-operative’s Southern Community Owned Renewable Energy (CORE) fund.
The perpetual revolving fund will provide funding support, mostly through no interest loans, to community groups who are eager to install solar panels on community facilities across the region.
Community groups receive panels without needing to source all the capital up-front, the environment benefits through lower emissions and community funds stay circulating in the local area instead of going off to multi-national companies.
The project also trials a partnership with Parks Victoria that the co-operative hopes to expand to other sites, and will enable the employment of a project technical officer to assist with the mine installation and other sites supported by the Southern CORE fund.
Bass Coast Shire Mayor Cr Pamela Rothfield expressed the Bass Coast Shire’s appreciation and support for the project and funding.
“The council is pleased to be supporting the Energy Innovation Co-operative’s lead ‘Old Energy-New Energy’ project through both a financial and in-kind contribution, and looks forward to seeing the project completed and sharing the outcomes with the community and visitors to our region,” she said.
“The project is innovative and educational, and demonstrates how we can showcase our history with today’s technology.
“We are fortunate to have an enthusiastic and capable community group with a strong environmental focus making a positive difference to the community in which we all live.”
Victorian Government Renewable Energy Advocate Simon Corbell toured the Wonthaggi State Coal Mine and was briefed on the project on Thursday.
“This is a smart and innovative project which highlights the clean energy transition,” he said.
“It can build community ownership of the opportunities renewable energy can deliver for towns and regions.”
The Energy Innovation Co-operative celebrated the funding and made the local announcement at the State Coal Mine on Friday morning.
This funding is one of 21 successful projects in Round 2 of the Victorian Government’s New Energy Jobs Fund.
The $20 million fund, allocated over three rounds, assists Victorian-based new energy technology projects that create long-term, sustainable jobs, drive economic development, promote community participation, increase the uptake of renewable energy generation, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, drive innovation of new energy technologies and build new energy technology capacity in Victoria.