Victorian community gets on with supporting renewable energy

Posted on October 17, 2011 by

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Here in Victoria, the roll out of renewable energy is facing an uphill battle because of the regressive attitudes of the Baillieu government. New wind farm rules will rule out all current community owned wind farms that are under development – at least in their current form, because of the creation of No Go zones. These laws have cost Victoria more than $900 million in lost and stalled investment and hundreds of potential jobs in the short period of time since they were enacted.

Now, the Baillieu government has quietly cut access for most households to an incentive to install new rooftop solar panels.

While it appears that the state government has turned its back on the pressing issue of climate change, more and more communities are starting to adopt sustainable energy sources, to reduce their environmental impact and increase local energy security.

We thought we would share a few of the good news stories that we are aware of. This is, as they say, the tip of an enormous iceberg.

Hepburn community wind farm

Communities and organisations are getting mobilised to oppose the Coalitions anti-renewables policy – witness the recent move by Mt Alexander Shire asking for the Baillieu government to re consider the implementation of a ‘no go’ zone which knocks off the plan for a community-owned wind farm in the Shire.

Apart from the need to apply political pressure on the government to over turn its policies which are stifling renewable energy, we can also do a lot as consumers and businesses. By buying green power, we can drive investment in wind and other renewables.

One local example of a business showing leadership here in Central Victoria is Redbeard bakery, in Trentham,  which uses wind energy amongst a range of environmental initiatives.

Gisborne Peak Winery, which is just south of Gisborne, has installed a 1.1kW wind turbine and 3.3kW solar system to run their operations.

Elgo Estate, in Victoria’s Strathbogie ranges, have a variety of measures to make their winery more sustainable including a wind turbine, which generates renewable clean energy, as well as significant water recycling, and large-scale tree-planting on the property. Not only does the 150kW wind turbine power operations on the winery, it also generates enough renewable green energy to power an additional 34 households each year, saving more than 400 tonnes of greenhouse gas each year. It’s the equivalent of taking 80 cars off the road.

The community owned Hepburn Wind farm is now selling the power generated at its project at Leonards Hill through Red Energy. You can sign up to purchase their power here.

Bendigo and Ballarat community solar parks

In late 2009 Central Victoria Solar City began the construction of two 300kW solar parks, in Ballarat and Bendigo. The project developed these Parks as part of its mission to test new approaches in local, large-scale solar provision and they are Victoria’s first ground mounted, flat plate and grid-connected solar installations.

The Parks each produce approximately 450 megawatt hours of accredited GreenPower each year.  450 megawatt hours equates to switching on 4.5 million 100 watt light-bulbs simultaneously for an hour or providing enough power to run more than 1000 domestic fridges. This solar electricity is pumped back into the main electricity grid and goes towards reducing Australia’s reliance on non-renewable energy.

Then there is the example of Newstead, just outside Castlemaine, which is aiming to be the first Australian town to run on 100% renewable energy.

In far East Gippsland, the Black Rainbow printing works run their entire operation from solar power.

Codrington wind farm

Globally there has been the development of a ‘wind made’ logo, for companies that commit to sourcing their energy needs from wind. Lego is one of the founding members of this project.

You can find details here.

A growing number of businesses are choosing to adopt a range of measures to reduce their environmental impacts, including through buying green energy. I like the example of Venture Snowboards, a small company making snow boards in the USA. The following comes from their website and shows their holistic approach to reducing their overall impact:

“It seems only natural that we should strive to protect the wild places that inspire us. That’s why Venture has a dual focus: to improve the quality and performance of our boards while minimizing environmental impact.

“We’ve followed this path from day one, building the cores for our very first prototypes with Forest Stewardship Council certified wood, a practice we continue today. Over the years we’ve also initiated a comprehensive recycling program, experimented with low impact materials, and implemented a lean business model. In 2004 we converted our entire operation to wind power. We’ve been a participating member of 1% For The Planet since 2006, donating one percent of our annual sales to environmental causes.

“As we look ahead to breaking ground on a new production facility here in Silverton, we are incorporating these same principles into the structure. Design plans include passive and active solar features as well as sustainable, recycled, and reclaimed materials throughout”.

“These are small steps, but they demonstrate our deeply held commitment to conservation. With this ethic guiding our every move, we continue to seek out low impact materials and methods while maintaining our focus on quality and performance”.

Obviously, sourcing green energy alone is not enough to drive a company towards the elusive aim of being sustainable, but greening up energy input is a significant start.

We would be interested in knowing what businesses in Victoria have consciously chosen to use new renewable energy sources like wind. Please feel free to post a comment below or contact us directly. cam.walker@foe.org.au

Check our ‘wind supporters’ page to see individuals who are supporting the development of wind energy in the state.