HEPBURN Community Wind Park Cooperative is set for an expansion that will make it Victoria’s first community-owned hybrid wind and solar park.
The cooperative, which is currently home to two wind turbines, Gale and Gusto, will be boosted to include three megawatts of solar PV and 4.1 megawatts of wind generation on site.
Funded through a $500,000 grant from the state government’s Renewable Communities Program, the project will be a major boost to Hepburn Shire’s zero-net energy target, which it hopes to reach by 2025, as well as its zero-net emissions target, which it hopes to reach by 2030.
Manager of the cooperative, Taryn Lane, said there had always been a long-term view that solar would be installed at the wind park. The cooperative currently has 2013 members, while the wind farm generates enough energy to offset 2000 households. It is estimated with the addition of solar, another 1000 houses could benefit.
“This is about maximising the benefits for members and enhancing our generation. We have a very substantial grid connection so it’s about utilising that as much as possible and growing the scale of the co-op. Generally smaller projects can suffer as administrating them can be more expensive, so by adding more generation, we are spreading that cost around which is better for the community.”
Coupling wind and solar generation is a really good match.- Taryn Lane
Ms Lane said the expansion fitted in well with the broader strategy of trying to create as much community owned energy generation as possible. For the past 18 months, a solar monitoring device at the wind farm has been checking the resources to ensure solar would be technically viable and financially feasible.
Ms Lane said the grant would enable the group to undertake the next stages of planning for the solar farm.
“Coupling wind and solar generation is a really good match. In the middle of the day the wind turbines can drop out as they are not generating much energy. Wind generates more energy in the morning and the evening, while solar peaks at the middle of the day,” she said.
“This creates a really smooth load – so a nice low profile and more consistent energy production.”
The philosophy behind Hepburn Wind is creating a different way to approaching ownership while creating community assets.
“We are quite iconic in what we do and have a nationwide reputation,” Ms Lane said. “Instead of power being commercially driven, this approach keeps the money and benefit local.”
She said the cooperative tried to do things differently by having murals painted on the turbines and ensuring the wind farm was accessible.
Hepburn Wind gives back and shares the benefit of the co-op through its community fund, which has funded 60 projects in the past seven years. It also has an energy fund which funded the electric vehicle charging station in Vincent Street and six solar systems at community facilities.
Looking forward, Ms Lane said she would like to see Hepburn Shire continue to be a lighthouse community in regards to energy.
“I want us to take the next step and really show the leadership we have in us as a community.”
If all goes to plan, the solar farm will be running by 2020.