IMAGINE this. It’s 2030 and you’re driving from Cowes to Inverloch in an electric share car. You could have gone driverless but hey, it’s a nice day and you feel like driving. Besides, it costs nothing to charge the car off your solar panels. Your electrician has been telling you to use more power. “Just leave the lights on,” she says, but it’s hard to get into the habit. All those years of being ultra careful about wasting electricity ...
You catch a sight of a work team putting the finishing touches to the new carpark at the Koala Conservation Sanctuary. It’s roofed in solar panels that will provide all the electricity they need. Why on earth did they wait so long? Past the sanctuary, you catch a flash from the inland solar farm that’s powering the residents of Smiths Beach and Wimbledon Heights.
As you cross the bridge to San Remo you glance to the right to see the sun flashing on the floating solar array. That caused a bit of a sensation when it first went in. Someone told you it was the world’s first marine grade solar farm. It became a bit of a model, especially for Pacific countries.
In the middle of the channel you can see the tidal generator that now powers most of Newhaven and San Remo through a mini grid. You take the turnoff to Wonthaggi and as you’re approaching the roundabout you see the Anderson solar/wind farm. The beauty of it is that when one source isn’t producing the other generally is, and it provides valuable backup power for the island.
You come around the Kilcunda headland to the enchanting sight of the six Wonthaggi turbines. That's where it all started, you reflect, way back in 2005. That was our first renewable energy project. The changing of the guard. It created a bit of a stir at first. People reckoned it would kill birds. There was something about the rare orange bellied parrot. And the rotating blades were going to make the cattle stampede. The blades might even fall off and hit them!
Things soon calmed down. A lot of people fell in love with them. The six turbines are now owned by a local energy co-op. There’s a bit of sentiment involved. The turbines are first generation and not very efficient but on a good day still produce enough energy to power half the town. Of course’ the town’s twice as big as it was when they were first built.
So much has changed in the past 10 years. Who would have thought the power hungry desal plant would one day be returning energy to the state? Turns out that if you’re producing water, you might as well produce hydrogen to power the plant. Since they closed Yallourn and Loy Yang coal-fired power stations, the excess energy from Wonthaggi now returns to the La Trobe Valley through the 90MW electricity cable and then to the townships of Moe and Morwell …
Fantasy? Maybe, but these are some of the ideas put forward for a Renewable Energy Roadmap for Bass Coast and South Gippsland.
The project is being co-ordinated by community energy group Energy Innovation Co-operative (EICo-op), in association with representatives from the two shires, Gippsland Climate Change Network, Latrobe Valley Community Power Hub, Sustainability Victoria and Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
The first round of workshops, in May and June, were an opportunity for residents and others to discuss aspirations and opportunities for local renewable energy and projects or plans already underway.
The second round of workshops in September and October will provide an opportunity to review and refine the draft roadmap, ahead of its finalisation in December.
EICo-op chair Moragh Mackay says the final roadmap will include recommendations for government, community and business to realise renewable energy projects in Bass Coast and South Gippsland.
“Together we will identify renewable energy opportunities that can maximise and share the benefits with local communities and our regional economy emerging from our transforming energy system.”
Visit the draft Bass Coast and South Gippsland Energy Roadmap to view suggestions and add your own. You can also complete a survey on your ideas and aspirations for the development of renewable energy within the region.