Harnessing the sun

Jonathon Marsden (Joe Mastroianni) 214109_01

Goya Dmytryshchak

Hobsons Bay could become the first Australian council to provide cheaper green electricity to the community by mid-2021, as it begins to roll out a “virtual power plant“ harnessing solar energy.

The council’s Large Scale Solar Installation Program will see solar panels installed on more than 40 council-owned and occupied buildings.

The virtual power plant will enable solar energy from the buildings to be distributed across council-owned and leased assets and, in the longer term, made available at low cost to the broader community.

Councillor Jonathon Marsden said the program was the culmination of a four-year investigation into how the council could become an energy retailer to reduce costs and emissions.

“After the panels are installed early next year, council can then co-design the virtual power plant with the community to make low-cost green electricity available across Hobsons Bay to residents, community groups, sporting clubs, not-for-profit organisations and business and industry,” he said.

“A virtual power plant allows us to offer low-cost green electricity to households and businesses and community organisations to reduce power bills during the economic recovery from COVID-19.

“Our city could quickly become energy independent and at the same time massively reduce our greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors.”

Cr Marsden said the solar energy system would initially reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 4000 tonnes a year – or up to 55 per cent of the council’s direct emissions over the coming two years – which is equivalent to taking about 600 homes off the grid.

“If we can start providing low-cost green electricity to the community by mid-2021, we will be the first council in Australia to do so, but Alice Springs Town Council is also in the race,” he said.

The cost and details of the successful tenderer will be announced when the contract is finalised.