Large-scale renewable-energy proposals for Tweed shire such as a hydro-electric scheme for Clarrie Hall Dam and a wind farm at Mt Nullum have been put in the too-hard basket.
The projects, proposed up to 10 years ago, have been deemed too risky or, in the case of the mini hydro-electric scheme, conditional on a decision on whether to raise the dam wall to boost capacity is taken by council in the near future.
Tweed Shire staff and most councillors at their last meeting adopted a ‘think small’ rather than ‘think big’ approach to renewable and energy-efficient projects, giving the nod instead to a ‘think tank’ to look into other green infrastructure projects.
They backed the staff report recommending support for the large-scale projects such as the hydro-electric scheme after the water supply issue has been sorted out, the extension of the Stotts Creek landfill site gas extraction and electricity generation project ‘as required’, and the monitoring and help ‘if necessary’ of the failed Condong Mill co-generation facility.
Council will also continue supporting the installation of small-scale solar-panel systems on new and old council and community buildings ‘as opportunities arise’.
Greens Cr Katie Milne’s move to add a call for community input for a think-tank to identify renewable and energy-efficient opportunities succeeded 4–3 (Crs Dot Holdom, Warren Polglase and Phil Youngblutt against).
Cr Polglase rejected the idea of council supporting large-scale green projects, saying it isn’t council’s ‘role to get involved, it’s a state or federal issue, our core business is rates, roads and rubbish’.
He claimed any such involvement could be ‘lopsided by one group with a philosophy against another’.
But Cr Milne welcomed the think-tank support, saying there was ‘more to do’, it had ‘endless possibilities’ and would be educational.
She said there were many green infrastructure grants available that Tweed could avail itself of and hoped the think tank could be set up before September’s council elections.
Staff said Regional Australia Development Fund grants for projects up to $5 million were available to councils on a dollar-for-dollar matching contribution basis while those above $5 million were on a one-for-two basis.
The report lists eight renewable-energy programs undertaken by council including the hydro-electric scheme, wind farm, landfill gas operation, co-generation facility, solar community program, village transition demonstration project, council’s 10kw solar-powered sustainable living centre, and various solar-panel systems at community and council buildings.
Staff said the hydro-electric scheme, proposed in 2004 after a feasibility study was carried out, should be delayed until the council adopts a clear strategy on its water-supply options.
The wind farm, proposed by council and the regional power authority in 2003, involved a 40-metre wind-monitoring tower, but staff said that for various and unknown reasons, the project did not progress beyond the initial concept stage.
Staff said the wind farm was not considered feasible because of its environmental impact and poor access.
The landfill project, which began operating in 2005 through flaring then energy production two years later, can currently produce 400 kilowatts or the equivalent of powering around 400 homes, reducing carbon emissions by 22,000 tonnes per year.
As for the co-generation project, the joint-venture partners in the Condong plant, Sunshine Renewable Energy Pty Ltd (Sunshine Sugar) and Delta Electricity Australia Pty Ltd, were recently placed into voluntary administration as the operation was ‘not financially viable to date’.
Staff said the plant continues to operate but is restricted to running for only half the year, during the cane-crush season from June to December.
‘The failure or partial failure of this venture highlights the risks associated with large-scale renewable energy projects,’ staff said.