Mitchell Community Energy members Jeff Wilmot and John Thompson discuss renewable opportunities for the Mitchell Shire

By Eden Hynninen

WITH energy at the forefront of Australian political discussion, Mitchell Community Energy Inc. is paving the way for more affordable and renewable power within the Mitchell Shire.

The group started early last year and has developed several important projects, including solar panels on Seymour Sports and Aquatic Centre providing ratepayers with substantial financial savings.

Another project was a solar system for Karingal Elderly Citizens Hostel in Seymour that included 300 solar panels – saving residents up to $25,000 a year on energy costs.

Mitchell Community Energy treasurer John Thompson said he and other members felt compelled to act and use their knowledge.

“Our view is that at a national level, there are no agreements being made around renewable energy and no policies to take this important industry forward,” he said.

“But across Australia, state and local governments and a large number of community groups are taking up the challenge and initiating a vast number of exciting projects for renewable energy and for the future.

“Our committee has a strong background in electrical engineering, economics, mechanical engineering and architecture – we’ve got the knowledge to work on these projects.

“I went to a meeting in Wangaratta recently where the 10 member organisations of the North East Community Energy Network reported on the various projects they were doing. They included a project in Yackandandah that aims to have the town entirely off grid, generating and distributing all of the energy for themselves.”

Mr Thompson spoke about a project commencing in Taggerty, Victoria where they are developing a micro-grid for the entire town.

“They’re going to put a big battery in the community hall and it will connect everyone to it, just like the Tesla battery in South Australia,” he said.

Following South Australia’s ongoing power supply concerns, earthworks are underway at the Lake Bonney wind farm in South Australia and will be one of the biggest battery sites in South Australia.Mitchell Community Energy is working on the possibility of a pumped hydroelectricity scheme in the Trawool Valley.

The scheme would pump water from the Goulburn River to an old but serviceable dam in the Tallarook Ranges.

“On the other side of the river there are 18 wind turbines being constructed, Mr Thompson said.”

This wind farm could provide the power to pump the water up to the dam so that it can be released back into the river, generating hydroelectricity when it is needed.

“There are very few places where there is a dam at the top of a river with a power source nearby.

“We thought we better get someone to look at this, so the Melbourne University Energy Institute conducted a prefeasibility study. They needed to look at the size of the dam and how much power was needed to pump the water up.

“They said it was a project with very good prospects and said it now needed a detailed business case to be done.”

Mr Thompson said the project was what’s called ‘firming the supply’ for other renewable sources that don’t work at certain times of the day.

“For example, when it’s night time for solar panels and no wind on wind farms, they need firming supplies that they can switch on for a couple of hours. This will maintain electricity supply for  a large number of people,” he said.

“These kinds of project are important for climate change reasons. We have just experienced a very hot, dry summer, and scientists are warning that these conditions are only going to get worse.

“We can’t continue to rely on coal because of its impact on our atmosphere and climate.”

Mitchell Community Energy and Seymour Business and Tourism are hosting a business networking event at Wine X Sam in Seymour on July 4 to discuss the financial benefits to business utilising Renewable Energy and opportunities to participate.

The meeting will hear from experts, businesses that are already profiting from renewable energy, and people from government who can advise on financial support for businesses.

Limited tickets are available.

If you are interested contact louisekbyrne@gmail.com.

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