THE Newstead community is hoping to build a two-megawatt solar farm on the town’s outskirts in an attempt to go 100 per cent renewable.
Renewable Newstead released a report on the weekend outlining its vision for a town powered by locally-generated renewable energy, with the $2.7 million solar farm at the heart of the design.
The plan will be taken to potential commercial partners in the hope of finding a company to build and operate the solar farm, and to distribute and sell the power within Newstead. Local landholders will also be consulted in an attempt to find the ideal location.
Newstead negotiated a tariff which includes a $1-per-day fixed supply charge, with no charge per kilowatt hour in off-peak times. There will be a $2 per kilowatt hour peak demand charge.
The tariff also includes varied retail charges.
Renewable Newstead spokesperson Genevieve Barlow said they calculated an average saving of between 10 and 30 per cent for residents once the project is complete, based on existing power bills.
She said it will be an entirely opt-in system, and the solar farm model was chosen so it did not place requirements on residents to install solar panels.
“There may be people in Newstead whose rooftops, tenancy arrangements or income would not allow them to install rooftop solar, so we didn’t want to leave them out, and we wanted to give them access to renewable power,” Ms Barlow said.
Completely removing the town from the grid was ruled out because one of the project’s goals was to ensure no one was left worse off. If fewer customers were on the grid, costs would be increased for other Victorians.
The report was funded by a $200,000 state government grant and, if successful, would be used as an example for other small towns in Victoria seeking to switch to renewable power.
Ms Barlow said they would seek options to minimise the reliance on financial support from the government in the future.
“There could be small government support, or philanthropic support, or support from another investor,” she said.
“For now we will be approaching potential commercial partners. At some stage we will put out an expression of interest to landholders.
“We are hoping to see some movement in the next two years for the site, partner and price.”
Renewable Newstead would also be open to building a larger-scale solar farm if a commercial partner was willing to make the investment. Battery storage options could feature further down the track.