Newstead, a town of around 500 people, is considered a flagship project project for the state, and is looking to build up its renewable energy capacity and then integrate these into the local grid with battery storage and new “energy market” ideas.
Tosh Szatow, director for Energy for the People, which is advising the township, says the call for expressions of interest is designed to flush out ideas from solar companies, retailers, trading platforms and others that could be adapted to the town’s plans.
The Newstead plan is seen as a fore-runner for other towns and cities in the state, and elsewhere in Australia. And far from being a rogue proposal, the idea has the support of the state Labor government and even the local network operator, Powercor, which is co-operating on data, network capacity and tariff design.
It is estimated that the township will need at least 1.5MW of solar PV to meet its 100 per cent renewable plan, with a surplus of power likely in summer and a deficit in winter.
But its focus is also on energy efficiency and fuel switching (away from wood and bottle gas to electricity). “In time, we also see battery storage and electric vehicles playing a major role in our energy supply,” says Gen Barlow from Renewable Newstead.
Barlow says the key is to deliver integrated energy solutions with “hip pocket savings: and a feel good factor to drive 100 per cent take up.
The team has been working with the local network operator Powercor to understand load profiles and constraints to investing in local renewables, and the role played by tariff structures.
It is confident it now has a plan that can deliver the 100 per cent renewable energy target, cost savings to consumers, and gather the support of the the community. But the crucial component will the tariff structures.
About 110 locals turned up for a town hall meeting in July and stayed for more than three hours to thrash community concerns about the project.
“We are a community with a history of coming together to collectively do things that make Newstead a better place to live for us all,” Barlow said. “In five years, we hope to see the challenge of 100% renewable energy supply in the rear-view mirror.”
Indeed, Powercor has become an active supporter of the project, recognising that other towns will want to follow suit, and it admits the shift to clean energy is unstoppable.
Expressions of Interest close December 16. The EOI document can be found at www.renewablenewstead.com.au