Ballarat could have a new community renewable energy project ready for implementation in the next two years.
The move is part of the state government’s Community Power Hubs pilot program, where groups in Ballarat, Bendigo and the LaTrobe Valley are working to develop locally-owned renewable energy projects.
The pilot community power hubs aim to have at least one flagship project ready for implementation in each region within two years, and at least three more in the pipeline.
Ballarat’s renewable energy group BREAZE was appointed the host organisation of the Ballarat Community Power Hub.
The team are conducting feasibility studies for 12 community energy projects that could be implemented in Ballarat, including solar and wind generation with battery storage for a heritage commercial building in central Ballarat, and a solar and energy efficiency upgrade at a community centre.
A biomass furnace to generate hot water and steam for a local linen service, and assisting a local community to develop their own renewable energy projects are other projects up for consideration.
Ballarat Community Power Hubs spokesperson Ian Rossiter said there had been a high level of interest in the Community Power Hubs.
“Many people want to have more of a say about how their energy is produced and really value the idea of being a part of its generation,” he said.
“We are here to act as a catalyst for people who have great ideas about community owned, operated and developed energy projects.”
BREAZE funded the installation of solar panels on the Ballarat Regional Industries workshop in Sebastopol in 2016, the first community energy project in Ballarat.
The disability support organisation are repaying the money to BREAZE on an interest free loan from the savings made in electricity payments. BREAZE will then reinvested the funds in other community energy projects.
Mr Rossiter said Ballarat was leading the way in renewable energy with investment in the solar park and support for the wind generation industry in Western Victoria, but BREAZE’s role was to support the community sector.
“We want to be able to help some of the organisations that otherwise might struggle to find money to invest in renewable energy,” he said.
“For us it is a social equity concept of why should those who can afford to have renewable energy to have cheaper power and do the right thing by the environment, while others who might want to can’t.”
Community groups can visit http://www.communitypowerhub.com.au/ballarat/ for more information and the chance to contact BREAZE with their ideas for a community energy project.
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