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Magic happens – Newstead to go 100% renewable?

June 3, 2010

The Newstead 2021 blog has been a bit quiet of late … just waiting for something magical to happen. At our May 2008 summit there was major interest in doing something around renewable energy options for our community. A number of meetings were held, discussions were wide ranging and exciting possibilities were canvassed. Since then our community has been pretty busy and the “energy thing” has been simmering away. Well, serendipity is a wonderful thing.

Last week we were approached by Leah Sertori from Central Victorian Solar City. “The Central Victoria Solar City (CVSC) project is part of the Australian Government’s $94 million Solar Cities program that offers incentives to local residents and businesses to participate in a trial range of energy efficiency, local energy generation and demand management products and services. The project aims to discover innovative local energy solutions for you, your community and the planet.”

Here is a summary of the notes provided by Leah following the meeting.

On Friday evening Leah Sertori from Central Victoria Solar City met with a number of local community members. The group included Genevieve Barlow, Geoff Park, Don Culvenor, Ron Snep, Melissa Proposch and Liz Bell. Newstead is well known for its capability in leading and implementing initiatives that benefit the broader community. Over the past year Newstead 2021 has successfully developed and implemented a number of initiatives: Community Playground, a free wireless network and the recently launched Community Garden. Newstead is a very tight knit, resourceful community. 
The Offer
Leah met with the group to run them through the opportunities to engage in the solar city project as well as an overview of what the project hopes to achieve. Leah offered to provide the group with some support from the CVSC office if they were interested in engaging their whole town in reducing their energy use and engaging in renewable energy creation. We discussed a community based challenge, for residents of Newstead to reduce their energy consumption by up to 20% and to shift to 100% solar renewable energy in the next twelve months to two years.  At this stage, the idea is very fluid and open. It will be further shaped by the residents of Newstead.

We identified the following benefits of a potential project:
•  Converting an entire town (around 150 residences) to renewable energy is a great story 
•  Highly visible project 
•  Will attract interest from visitors to Newstead 
•  Will engage the entire community in a project that benefits everyone
•  Opportunity for Newstead to generate income from excess energy created by PV 
•  Opportunity for residents to complete some training to become qualified energy auditors, generating employment outcomes
•  CVSC can take that model to other small towns in Central Victoria, its scalable 
•  We can share the lessons learned and the towns experience through a media campaign

There was a huge amount of interest from the group in the potential for Newstead to build a small solar park, if they secured pledge amounts to cover the financing of the project. There was generally a great atmosphere at the meeting and enormous excitement around what could be achieved. 

Next steps include:
•  Leah to find out how much electricity Newstead currently uses daily, monthly, annually from Powercor.
•  Genevieve, Geoff and the Newstead Gang to hold another meeting to scope the potential for the project.
•  CVSC to facilitate a community planning session with up to 25 residents and business owners/operators to develop a project.
•  Newstead and CVSC to develop a project proposal which provides the scope of the project, its intended outcomes, deliverables and timeframes. 
•  Leah to engage John Harvey from Central Victorian Greenhouse Alliance in the discussion and Sally Morris, Manager of Economic Development from the Mount Alexander Shire.

This is a very exciting opportunity for our town and community. Not just because it offers an opportunity to be part of direct practical action to address climate change but importantly it provides us with the scope to plot our own path … with support and expertise from CVSC. Stay tuned for an invitation to participate in what happens next.

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