It seems that it is not just towns in New South Wales that are looking to meet all their own electricity needs with renewable energy – a small township in Victoria is also looking to become 100% renewable within a decade.
The small town of Yackandandah, about 120kms south of Albury Wodonga, will host the launch of the ”Totally Renewable Yackandandah” initiative later this month that aims to achieve the goal by 2022.
Yackandandah and surrounding villages already have a penetration rate of rooftop solar of 28.7 per cent, with 201 of the 700 dwelling buildings hosting a total of 600kW of solar. The Indigo Shire that surrounds it has the highest solar penetration of any council in the state.
Spokesman Matthew Charles-Jones (pictured below) says the group will work in three stages: the first is to create a shared vision; the second is to encourage energy efficiency and rooftop solar, as well as battery storage, at an individual household and business level; and the third is to look at local generation and technologies that would solve the problem of night-time demand and cloudy days.
“We are not approaching it from a technical point of view and saying we should build a large solar farm,” Charles-Jones says. That, he says, they will leave to the experts, and judging from the response to the zero net energy town initiative in NSW, where 18 consultancies issues a tender, there is plenty of expertise around.
Even though the initiative has not yet been formally launched (it will happen on November 22), the response has already been good. “The feedback is that people are really excited about the idea,” he says. “They are asking which solar company should they go to, rather than asking what is the value of it.”
Yackandandah already has a strong community spirit. It has a community owned petrol station, which has injected $30,000 back into local projects; the community has installed a 12kW solar system on its roof, with 3kW paid for by the local folk festival as part of its sustainability commitment.
There is a community owned hospital, which may also look to solar, and even the local Men’s Shed has received a grant to install solar on their new workshop building.
Charles-Jones says he and others were inspired after listing to Arno Zengle, mayor of the German town of Wildpoldsried, which has 2,600 residents that produce 300% more green energy than they need. Zengle spoke at the recent Community Energy congress in Canberra. “We reckon we can do same thing,” Charles-Jones says.
But he says it is not a competition. “If another community pulls it off before us, that’s great. We are just excited that others are doing it, because everyone is going to be having a conversation about this within the next five years.
But for those who can’t yet afford it they are suggesting alternatives. “There are electricity retailers within Victoria that are already selling 100 per cent renewable electricity, so right now people could transfer to become renewable by buying through those retailers,” he said.
Indi MP Cathy McGowan has also praised the forward thinking of the town. “Rural Australia holds the answer to Australia’s energy provisions and Yackandandah is leading the way,” McGowan told the Border Mail. “They are showing how communities can get their act together around renewable energy and it’s a fantastic opportunity for us to grow businesses.”