10.7 C
Byron Shire
May 18, 2021

Localised smart grids pick up as big projects stall

Latest News

All fired up: former magistrate fumes at news of the world

How does one react to news of environmental vandalism, rampant domestic violence and mutilation of women without anger or distress?

Other News

Filming of Byron Baes begins with no indigenous consultation

Filming of the Netflix series Byron Baes has reportedly commenced without any effort made by the show's production company – Eureka Productions – to consult with local indigenous groups or the local Council.

Interview with Cyprien Clerc, Founder and managing Director of Futureseeds

Founder and Managing Director at FutureSeeds, Cyprien Clerc, talks to The Echo about this upcoming event.

Locals question placing homes in areas of inundation risk

It is where the community fought off Club Med and it is once again in the spotlight as the current owners, Elements, are seeking to have the zoning of the environmentally sensitive area in Bayshore Drive changed from tourism to residential

Entertainment in the Byron Shire for the week beginning May 12

Check out what's on going the Byron Shire and surrounding area this week

Free mental health workshop for Byron businesses

Business owners in Byron Shire are invited to attend a free 'Healthy Mindset' workshop aimed at providing them with resources and tools to improve mental health and wellbeing, as well as the opportunity to connect with other business owners.

How much do you know about koalas?

How well do you know your koala facts? Test your knowledge at the June 2 Koala Hard Quiz in Mullumbimby.

By Giles Parkinson, reneweconomy.com.au

Australia has nearly two million homes with some sort of solar appliance – rooftop PV arrays or solar hot water – and is probably leading the world in residential solar.
Australia has nearly two million homes with some sort of solar appliance – rooftop PV arrays or solar hot water – and is probably leading the world in residential solar.

The market for large-scale renewable energy projects may well be at a standstill in Australia, but at the community level, things are happening quickly.

Dozens of projects have emerged as state governments tap into local ideas, offering grants for innovative projects that allow solar and other renewables to be developed at a local level, for innovative financing packages, and even the development of localised smart grid.

It’s a crucial step. Australia has nearly two million homes with some sort of solar appliance – rooftop PV arrays or solar hot water – and is probably leading the world in residential solar, with some 4,000MW of rooftop arrays, penetration rates of more than 25 per cent. It is at the forefront of the rise of the so-called ‘energy prosumer’.

The CSIRO last year predicted that up to one-half of total electricity needs will be generated locally, either on households rooftops, by business, or in community-owned or sponsored arrays.

What has been missing from the emergence of this ‘decentralised’ energy system – which will ultimately turn the current centralised economic model on its head – has been concrete action at community level.

This is important because it will not just build up scale, it will also offer solutions to those not yet able to take part in the solar revolution, including low-income housing, apartment dwellers and renters.

And it will allow whole communities to look after their own energy needs, as some network operators are even encouraging.

And, as pointed out by Beyond Zero Emissions’ Stephen Bygrave last week, ‘all revolutions need to start from the bottom up,’ as they had in Germany and Denmark in the energy space. There’s not much hope of leadership at the federal level in Australia.

Apart from a few groundbreaking projects, such as the Hepburn wind farm and a few smaller community-funded solar arrays, little has been done so far in Australia, although there have been plenty of ideas and aspiration of how to match the achievements in Europe, where much of the renewable energy is owned at community level in some form.

That is now starting to change rapidly. Numerous towns in Australia are now looking to make themselves either zero net carbon, zero net energy, or 100 per cent renewables; or to create community owned electricity retailers that focus on renewables.

These include Byron Bay, Lismore, and Uralla in northern NSW, along with a small village called Tyalgum that could soon be take off grid. The Victorian towns of Newstead and Yackandandah are in an unofficial race to be the first 100 per cent renewable energy towns in that state.

Other towns, such as Ravensthorpe in WA, are likely to leave the grid because the grid operator thinks it’s the cheapest and safest thing to do.

Councils such as Fremantle and Sunshine Coast are planning their own large-scale arrays – of between 10MW and 15MW – while groups of towns in western NSW are looking to pool their solar resources.

New housing estates may not be connected to the grid at all because of the possibilities offered by battery storage and other enabling technologies.

The scale and breadth of ideas has been further underlined by the new series of community energy grants announced by the NSW government.

They include a 1MW solar project in Goulburn, which would be the biggest community owned solar project in the country, solar arrays that will bring solar to low income housing and rentals, and a plan to take a whole village off grid, and a renewable energy ‘smart’ grid that will allow an ‘eco-village’ to generate and swap electricity among the 120 or so housing lots.

In the town of Manilla, which lost out to Uralla in a bid to become the first zero net energy town, one major energy consumer plans to use solar and biogas to cut its connection to poles and wires.

The community-owned smart grid idea has attracted $70,000 from the NSW government to help the Narara Eco Village on the central coast develop the plan.

‘Increasing the capacity of community owned clean energy production is crucial to empower communities and provide clean sustainable energy for the benefit of the environment,’ environment minister Rob Stokes said.

‘This project will demonstrate that community operated small-scale renewable energy grids can reduce carbon emissions and relieve pressure on existing electricity infrastructure.

The next step will be the corporate market, which many people believe is on the point of ballooning. It is just holding tight to work out how much damage the federal coalition will do to the renewable energy target, and what level of certainty can be brought to the market to allow investment decisions to go ahead.

Numerous Australian companies – including some big retailers and property groups – are looking to install solar at a major scale.

Some major national franchisees are looking at how they can use localised generation to cut their dependence on the grid, in much the same way as IKEA is doing.

Others are looking to follow in the footsteps of Apple and Google (and IKEA) and make a commitment to 100 per cent renewable energy.

Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Business calls for Tweed train tracks to be kept ignored

More than 800 people had signed a petition calling for a new rail trail to be built next to, rather than in place of, the existing disused railway line running through the shire.

Resilient communities training on offer

‘Resilience’ has become a buzzword in Australia over the past few years, as communities across the country struggle to cope with fire, floods, and a pandemic.

Independent councillor fact-checks housing supply in the Byron Shire

Independent Byron Shire Councillor Cate Coorey won approval from fellow councillors last week for a new reporting regime she says will offer clarification on dwellings approved in the shire.

How to exercise more voting rights in council elections

Being a property owner in NSW isn’t just a financial advantage, it also means you have more rights to vote than non-property owners.