Report to BSFG Committee - 26 October 2021
Renewable Energy Benalla (REB) has been struggling for some time to achieve some of its goals. We have recently had discussions about the future of REB. While these discussions about how the group will operate will continue for some time we believe we need to inform the BSFG committee of some proposals for change.
Renewable Energy Benalla is a very broad title and could evoke the notion of direct marketing of renewables rather than the social/community goal of promoting the adoption of renewable energy across the Benalla community.
We are proposing that the title be changed to Community Energy Benalla as that better reflects the community focus.
However there is the issue of possible confusion with the Benalla Community Energy Project.
Considerations for Future Operations of the Group
Benalla Stationary Energy Transition Strategy
The focus of this document is to reduce stationary energy emissions to zero by achieving 100% renewable energy within 10 years. The document outlines three key steps to achieving this:
We are currently investigating a Solar Garden proposal which fits within the Replace with local renewables strategy.
The Benalla Community Energy Project (solar panels or energy upgrades) does focus on Replace but may also focus on Reduce if future projects are to do with improving energy efficiency.
Reduce and Replace strategies could be within the resources of Community Energy Benalla.
Switch to Utility Scale would be beyond the resources of CEB without major involvement from the council.
The goal of Switch would be to have a solar farm built to provide energy directly into the Benalla grid.
A local example is where Wangaratta Council invited a developer to build a solar farm to provide power to the industrial estate. This attracted industries to Wangaratta to benefit from cheaper renewable energy.
Could Benalla council be encouraged to do that for Enterprise Park?
Reduce energy demand through better building and energy efficiency
REB has conducted Energy Efficiency workshops in the past however the numbers attending the most recent workshops were disappointing. This is one of the key steps in reducing emissions and should continue to be part of the work of Community Energy Benalla.
There are many resources on the internet about retrofitting existing houses to make them more energy efficient and reduce energy bills. Possibly CEB could focus on directing people to these resources through website and social media?
Another possibility could be to conduct a forum focussed on people having problems paying their electricity bills.
Energy Efficiency Awards
In 2016 and 2018 BSFG and SunReal sponsored the Environmentally Sustainable Business Award as part of the Benalla Business Network "Business Excellence Awards". While it appears that BBN may not continue with these awards they may be interested in supporting an Energy Efficiency Award, obviously for businesses.
While it is obvious that some sort of sponsorship would be needed we believe it may be something worth pursuing, particularly with the focus on businesses. Sustainability Victoria assisted with the judging of the business awards and they may be able assist again.
Such awards may be best initiated by BSFG rather than CEB.
A major issue for Community Energy Benalla will be one of leadership as I will be moving away from Benalla in the near future.
Could a Solar Garden project be a good future project for REB?
Solar Garden schemes give investors a credit for the value of electricity produced by their patch of the solar garden. The amount credited to each “solar gardener” is determined by the size of their “plot” and the arrangements made with the participating retailer.
The concept is considered a particularly good fit with renters, in that the electricity credits generated by a ‘virtual plot’ of solar panels moves with its owner, if they move house, as long they remain with a participating retailer.
Find out more/Source: Sophie Vorrath, 'Australia's biggest "solar garden" seeks to power 300 homes in NSW Riverina' One Step Off the Grid, April 24, 2020
With meetings at the Benalla Rural City offices cancelled due to COVID-19 regulations, there will be no minutes for March/April. However the following report covers developments since the last minutes.
Virtual tour of Energy Efficient House
Adrian Howden’s son has worked on developing a 'virtual tour' of an energy efficient house.
The basic app is set up and he is now waiting to use material from the presentations last year to develop a 'walk through' highlighting problems and solutions.
John Lloyd has forwarded to Adrian the power point presentations on 'Draught Proofing & Insulation' and 'Lighting & Windows’ that were presented during the 2019 Energy Efficiency sessions. Some slides from these presentations may be able to be used in the 'virtual tour'.
John will make suggestions for future action in relation to Energy Efficiency shortly.
Community Energy Project - Establishing a donation-based fund to install panels on community buildings
1. Participation in a Community Energy workshop webinar & consultations with CORENA
John Lloyd took part in a Community Energy workshop organised by Hume DELWP and the Community Power Agency. The purpose of the workshop was to provide critical feedback and advice about our project. We received a number of helpful suggestions about implementing this project.
As a result of participating in this workshop DELWP have made a $3000 grant available to REB to help implement the project. We believe the best way to use this grant is to employ someone to undertake administrative tasks involved with setting up governance of the fund and to pay for professional development of communication messaging and materials.
In relation to obtaining Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status, which means donations are tax deductable, we were advised that this could take a long time and it was suggested that we should talk to CORENA, who have been conducting a donation based revolving fund for a number of years. CORENA informed us that they did not have DGR status for the first three years of their operation and they suggested that we should not wait to obtain DGR status but should go ahead without it. CORENA also advised that obtaining DGR Status should become easier from July when applications will be handled by the Australian Charities & Not-for-Profit Commission (ACNC).
As the Benalla Renewable Energy Fund is a BSFG bank account, BSFG will need to obtain DGR status. John has discussed this with BSFG President, Peter Holmes, who agrees that BSFG will need to do this.
2. Community Energy Efficiency and Solar Grants 2020
Grants of up to $12,500 were available for energy generation and storage projects. There was a very short time frame for applications with only two projects per electorate to be funded and it was based on 'first come first served' principles. John suggested to the North East Regional Pre-school Association (NERPSA) that they would be eligible to apply in their own right. John offered to help them with their application if they decided to apply. NERPSA did not apply as the Indi electorate already had the maximum number of applications.
3. Community Energy Project implementation and Development of a Consultant’s Brief
Community Energy Project working group members have been communicating by email and are working through the steps required to implement this project. A brief is currently being developed for a consultant to undertake the tasks mentioned above.
Request from Geoff Lodge, Goulbourn Valley Community Energy
Geoff Lodge has requested/suggested that REB could be involved in helping GVCE install larger PV systems on factories in Benalla. Follow up with Geoff to be confirmed.
Waste to Energy
Adrian Howden has stepped away from involvement with Plastic Energy and moved to a watching brief to see what they are doing in Australia and where. His suggestion of a plant in Albury/Wodonga seemed to have merit for them, but as to who will be the principal investor remains to be seen. The main project has hit a snag in that the amount to be processed is larger than the plant size they have at present.
Adrian is exploring another approach which requires specific data from EPA, looking at a local plus a specialized operation added to it and considering if it is the type of operation we want and need to achieve an economic outcome. “All this is now a pipe dream in the current economic crisis, but if grasped, the opportunity could be feasible. Time will tell” Adrian.
Preliminary work on Micro Grid Feasibility
Nothing reported this month.
When making grant applications recently, the question has arisen - Micro-grid or Virtual Power Plant? This information was provided by a consultant to help to clarify the situation:
"What’s the difference between a micro-grid and virtual power plant?
What’s the difference between a virtual power plant and micro grid? Often you will hear the terms being used interchangeably, but they are different…
A micro-grid is a miniature model of a complete grid system where you have a form of electricity generation, storage, distribution and consumption, all within clearly specified electrical boundaries. A micro-grid could be a stand-alone system (SAPs), or a grid connected one, with a common point of coupling. The mutual factor being the electricity generated is expended within the micro grid network.
Virtual Power Plants (VPPs)
Virtual power plants can be created using software to control and optimise a network of generation and demand side storage. Battery storage can be added to traditional energy generation methods such as solar panels, traditional power plants and wind turbines and coordinated so that the whole system is much more efficient for both the end user and distribution utility.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MICRO-GRID AND VPP:
The Hume Renewable Energy Roadmap was the focus of discussion at BSFG's general meeting on Thursday 26 September.
The Hume Renewable Energy Roadmap has engaged thousands of people from communities, business and government to hear their views and vision for the future of renewable energy in the region.
The Roadmap identifies regional opportunities for renewable energy in Hume which includes a coalition of community energy groups working to deliver localised energy generation and distribution for community benefit.
Hume also has significant pumped hydro energy storage development potential as well as quality solar resources which have been attracting investment interest. Bioenergy resources are also abundant in Hume with a number of biogas generators operating in the region.
The Hume Renewable Energy Roadmap report brings together what the Roadmap team heard and uncovered and tells our region’s renewable energy story – the past, the exciting things happening now and what the future might hold.
Members of a larger meeting audience than usual were clearly interested in finding out more about the Renewable Energy Roadmap and the possibilities for a renewable energy future for our region.
Are your community energy programs designed to maximise community participation? An invitation from Sustainability Victoria:
"Sustainability Victoria invites you to a series of free webinars in September and October on how to ensure quality participation in your community-owned energy projects, now and in the future.
Presented by Dr Jarra Hicks from the Community Power Agency, you’ll hear about best practice approaches to community participation based on the latest insights from Sustainability Victoria’s Community Power Hubs pilot program.
This four-webinar series is ideal for community energy groups wanting to ensure future projects are designed and structured to facilitate community participation, or those wanting to create better opportunities for community participation in existing projects.
Designing community-owned renewable energy projects with strong community participation - Webinars - September-October 2019
Webinar 1: Introduction to designing community owned energy projects with strong community participation. Thursday 19 September 2019, 6:00–7:30 PM
Webinar 2: Facilitating participation through economic arrangements. Thursday 26 September 2019, 6:00–7:30 PM
Webinar 3: Facilitating participation through governance structures. Thursday 3 October 2019, 6:00–7:30 PM
Webinar 4: Facilitating participation through community engagement practices. Thursday 10 October 2019, 6:00–7:30 PM
Find out more and register for free if you’d like to join the webinars. For further enquiries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
Strategic Coordinator (Hume) | Regions, Communities & Local Government
M: 0437 038 118 |Ph: 03 8626 8826
www.sustainability.vic.gov.au | follow us @sustainvic "
'Ideal for Solar Project'
Winton Wetlands' environmental potential is being diversified with expressions of interest now open on a new solar project for the site.
This will add to a number of local solar projects as Benalla and district continues to embrace clean energy generation.
Winton Wetlands Committee of Management chair Dennis O'Brien said the project was in response to the Australian Government's initiative to mitigate the risk of climate change and global warming.
"The purpose of the proposed project is to supply green electricity generated from solar irradiation into the National Energy Market," Dr O'Brien said.
"The Committee of Management is capitalising on the site's natural ecopnomic strenghts and aligning themselves to add to the state government's energy mix, as we work towards the target of 40% renewable energy generation by 2025.
"Solar farms are the most direct way to help us reduce carbon emissions that contribute to global warming.
"Solar farms feed surplus power to the mains grid thereby distributing renewable, clean energy."
After two feasibility studies considering the practicability of developing a solar photovoltaic (PV) facility and associated infrastructure on the Winton Wetlands site, and the preliminary ecological constraints and planning approval matters, it was determined that solar PV projects at Winton Wetlands are technically viable at a commercial scale.
"The choice of location for the Mokoan Solar Project is driven by two main factors," Dr O'Brien said.
"Firstly, this location has among the highest levels of solar irradiation in Victoria.
"Secondly, the site has excellent topography - being very flat, with excellent drainage features."
The proposed site is up to 800 ha of crown land, to build and operate 200+MW capacity, equating to a provision of more than 50,000 households.
The expression of interest process is now open until Friday, July 12.
BSFG and REB recently received an Invitation to the Community Consultation for South Energy's proposed Solar Farms at Kennedys Creek and Lake Mokoan on Thursday 13 June at the Lake Mokoan Hub from 4 to 7 pm. The invitation letter included the following background information and contact details.
South Energy is currently preparing two upcoming planning permit applications for the use and
development of two solar farms; Kennedys Creek Solar Farm and Lake Mokoan Solar Farm. Both
proposed solar farms are located in proximity to the Winton Wetlands.
With great respect to your effort and dedication to the region, we wish to inform the Benalla
Sustainable Future Group of the upcoming planning applications to ensure that members are aware of both proposals and are given the opportunity to provide feedback on the projects.
Community consultation is a key next step for the proposals and will help to inform the design and delivery of the projects. An information session about the proposed solar farms will be held at the Mokoan Hub and Café at 4pm to 7pm on Thursday, 13 June 2019. South Energy would like to formally invite members of the Benalla Sustainable Future Group to the information session and welcome member’s comments on the proposed solar farms.
2.0 Site and Project Overviews
In response to the Australian Government’s initiative to mitigate the risk of climate change and global warming, the purpose of the proposed projects is to supply green electricity generated from solar irradiation into the National Energy Market. The projects will contribute significantly to Australian and Victorian renewable energy targets by reducing carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 547,000 tonnes a year in total. The following two sections provide an overview of each solar farm.
2.1.1 Kennedys Creek Solar Farm
The Kennedys Creek Solar Farm will be located at:
• Murray Road, Benalla;
• 51 Nelson Road, Benalla;
• 67 Nelson Road, Benalla
• 125 Nelson Road, Benalla; and
• 284 Benalla-Yarrawonga Road, Benalla.
The site is located within the Industrial 1 Zone and the Farming Zone. Currently, it is being used for broad acre farming. Upon completion, the project is expected to have a network capacity of up to 145 megawatts (MW), providing green electricity to approximately 51,000 households each year.
2.1.2 Lake Mokoan Solar Farm
Lake Mokoan Solar Farm will be located at:
• 892 Benalla-Yarrawonga Road;
• 81 Lake Mokoan Road, Goorambat; and
• Benalla-Yarrawonga Road, Benalla.
The project is approximately 4 kilometres north of the proposed Kennedys Creek Solar Farm and is situated to the west of the Winton Wetlands. The project is located wholly within the Farming Zone and is also currently used for broad acre farming.
The project is expected to have a network capacity of up to 115 MW and is anticipated to provide green electricity to approximately 41,000 households each year.
3.0 What’s Next?
Both of the chosen sites have been deemed suitable for development of a solar farm due to their
topography and proximity to existing infrastructure.We understand the importance of community engagement to ensure that local opinions, perspectives and ideas are heard and considered by the projects. Once we have considered the feedback received from all stakeholders, it is anticipated that the planning application will be submitted to Benalla Rural City Council in July 2019.
Should you have any questions or queries regarding the projects, please do not hesitate to contact David Huang on (03) 8842 6888 or email@example.com or visit our website www.kennedyscreeksolar.com.au or www.lakemokoansolar.com.au
+613 8842 6888 | Fax +613 8640 0706
Country News, week 11 December 2019 p4 featured an article by Rodney Woods titled 'Solar Plan Irks Locals' - an extract...
"A new solar farm is being proposed for Benalla, but locals whose houses are in close proximity have signed a petition to have it stopped before it even begins.
The proposal by AECOM Australia on behalf of Hunter and Co is set to occupy 9.1 ha at 35 Gunn Rd, about 3 km from Benalla, but locals have banded together to stop it.
It is one of the first applications to be looked at since Victoria's Planning Minister Richard Wynne announced a set of draft guidelines in October.
... the guidelines are only a draft at this stage, and will remain so until community consultation is completed in March next year...'
The article includes a link to the Draft Guidelines - 'Feedback can be made until March 1 at: https://engage.vic.gov.au/solar-energy-facilities-guidelines'.
This is an extract from an article 'Plan Presented' by Simon Ruppert in the Ensign Wednesday December 12. Subheading - 'Solar Application: Winton is set to be the site of a new solar farm that will provide power for 2300 homes'.
"Benalla and its surrounding villages will continue to support clean, renewable energy with Benalla Rural City Council giving planning permission to another solar farm project - in Winton.
John Mills, a consultant working on behalf of Lightsource Development, the company proposing the facility, presented a plan to the Benalla Rural City Council Planning and Development Committee on Wednesday. He told council that if all goes well they plan to start construction next year.
The facility, which will be built at 116 Lee Road in Winton, will consist of 42,108 solar panels, which track the sun's movement throughout the day.
The 15 megawatt solar farm is cited to provide enough electricity for 2300 homes.
The site will alos house eight inverters, nine transformers and eight batteries housed in a secure structure.
The planning permission includes the removal of five large native trees, however it also avoids areas of vegetation and habitat identified within ecological and biodiversity assessment reports.
With several solar farms planned for the Benalla Rural City Council area these decisions are going a long way to creating a cleaner, greener future for local people."
Interested in finding out more? Check out Lightsource BP's Community Information Pack on the proposed Mokoan Solar Installation
REB members recently met representatives of South Energy to discuss the proposed Goorambat Solar Farm, expected to have an estimated network capacity of up to 66 megawatts, powering approximately 24,300 households with electricity through the production of clean energy.
An information session in which South Energy shared their vision for the Goorambat Solar Farm project was held on Thursday 29 November at the Goorambat Town Hall, providing an opportunity for local opinions and ideas to be heard by the project.
Information about the project provided to the Benalla Ensign published on Wednesday 21 November included the following
South Energy, a renewable energy developer specialising in delivering utility scale solar farms, will lodge the planning application for the Goorambat project with Benalla Rural City Council shortly.
More information is available at https://www.goorambatsolar.com.au. If you have queries about the project, contact Jo Barnett: Joanna.Barnett@aecom.com.
At the BSFG General Meeting held on August 23, guest speaker from FRV Services, Development Manager Avantika Basu, provided an update on the 85MW AC Winton Solar Farm. This initiative clearly relates to Renewable Energy Benalla's mission to 'Switch 1/3'.
The first solar farm to be approved for development in the Winton region, Winton Solar Farm will help to establish a sustainable new industry for the region. Project Developer, FRV Services Australia, is one of the leading solar developers in the country, having now initiated six large-scale solar farms across QLD, NSW, SA and Victoria. Avantika provided an update on the project concept, its development approval and expected social and environmental benefits and answered a range of questions from the audience.
Information about the Winton Solar Farm Project can be viewed at the FRV website, http://wintonsolarfarm.com/, and FRV in Australia, http://frv.com/en/tag/australia/.
This proved to be an excellent opportunity to hear more about this Solar Farm Project for which it is hoped construction will begin in 2019. Engineer Avantika and her team stayed behind to answer questions and engage with us all about a project about which they are clearly very well informed and passionate.
Renewable Energy Benalla has a keen interest in utility scale renewable energy developments and contributes as a community networker by learning about and sharing information about renewable energy proposals. REB recently publicised the Lightsource BP Urbis proposed solar installation at Winton. Information was shared about, and some BSFG members attended, a community information event held by Lightsource BP Urbis on June 13 at Winton Raceway. Kristi Jorgensen and her team from Urbis Lightsource BP welcomed visitors warmly to the community information session, sharing pamphlets, answering questions and listening to community feedback on the proposed solar installation.
Informative posters on display in the room have been made available to REB by Urbis for further information:
The following morning REB committee members including John Lloyd and Peter Maddock met with Kristi and members of her team at a breakfast meeting to find out more about the proposal and share a community perspective.
Information Sheets about the Lightsource BP Solar Farm Proposal.
Mokoan Solar farm proposal - Community Information Drop In Event - Wednesday 13th June 4 to 7 pm - Winton Raceway
Recently public policy evaluation and consultancy firm URBIS contacted BSFG about a new Mokoan solar farm proposal at Lee Road Winton.
Representing Lightsource BP, Urbis has arranged a Community Information Drop-In Event to be held on Wednesday 13 June 2018 Winton Raceway 41 Fox Street, Winton. Visit the project team any time between 4pm and 7pm. Download information about the meeting.
Lightsource BP is a global market leader in the development and long-term management of large-scale solar projects and smart energy solutions.
Download information about the Lightsource BP Mokoan Solar Farm Proposal.
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Banner - launch of REB's Munro Avenue Pre School 'behind the meter' solar panel installation, May 6 '21