The NSW state government has awarded $15.4 million in grant funding to seven community-owned solar and storage projects in regional pars of the state, in a bid to extend the benefits of cheap solar power beyond household rooftops.
Combined, the seven projects will deliver an additional 17.2MW of additional solar generation capacity, as well as 17.9MW/39.3MWh of energy storage.
The grants have been awarded under the Regional Community Energy Program, which is funded by the NSW Climate Change Fund and projects are expected to leverage an additional $36 million in private investment, with the projects required to demonstrate flow-on benefits to the local community under the grant program.
“These grants will help regional communities right across NSW take control of their energy bills and benefit from the economic opportunities presented by changes in our energy system,” NSW energy minister Matt Kean said.
“The projects range from a community owned dispatchable solar and battery system at Goulburn to the installation of a 1 MW solar garden at Grong Grong in the Riverina, enabling low-income households and renters to access renewable energy.”
“At Ewingsdale near Byron Bay, a grant will enable the installation of 5 MW of solar power and 10 MWh battery energy storage system. The DC coupled battery is a relatively new technology for Australia and enables excess solar energy to be captured more efficiently,” Kean added.
The developers of the Byron Bay Solar farm, Coolamon Energy, which has received a $3.5 million grant said that the grant funding was a crucial factor in being able to combine the solar project with a large-scale battery storage system that will help provide on-demand supplies to the local community.
“We would not have been able to incorporate the battery component of the project without the RCEF funding. The battery gives us greater flexibility to be able to deliver an on-demand element of locally generated renewable energy in the Byron Shire,” spokesperson Craig Johnston said.
“In terms of delivering value back to the community, we hope to be able to work with Enova Energy to be able to offer Byron Bay residents locally generated renewable energy from the sun from 2021 onwards.”
The Community Energy 4 Goulburn project will also be able to add battery storage to a planned 1.8MW solar farm, using securing a $2.1 million grant to include a 0.4MW/0.8MWh battery system.
The 4.5MW Manilla solar farm, which has also received funding under the Regional Community Energy Program, will also use a $3.5 million grant to deploy the state’s first large-scale hydrogen energy storage facility.
The project will use innovative H2Store technology originally developed by the UNSW Sydney.
The grants have been awarded under the first round of the Regional Community Energy Program, and the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment will confirm in the future whether a further round of grant funding will be offered.
To be eligible for the grant funding, proponents of the community energy projects had to demonstrate a level of innovation and an ability to deliver dispatchable generation, to the benefit of a local community in a regional area.
The NSW government had opened applications for the grant round in February 2019 and is drawn from a larger $30 million Regional Community Energy fund.
The projects awarded include large-scale solar and battery projects, a shared community battery scheme led by retailer Enova Energy and a solar garden project proposed by Pingala community for the town of Grong Grong in the state’s south.
The NSW government has pushed ahead with the development of additional renewable energy and storage projects throughout the state, as it faces the looming closure of the state’s ageing fleet of coal-fired generators.
The announcement of grant funding for the regional community energy projects follows a commitment from energy minister Matt Kean to establish Australia’s first dedicated Renewable Energy Zone, around the regional township of Dubbo, with up to 3,000MW of new generation capacity.
This week, the NSW government also issued planning approvals for more than 1,000MW of new solar generation capacity, including a 290MW project in the Hunter region, and a mammoth 720MW project planned for the New England region.