A Ballarat social enterprise has found a way to slash its energy bills using solar PV and bioenergy from waste timber that would otherwise be stockpiled or landfilled and release harmful greenhouses gases.
The project is the first being developed through the Ballarat Community Power Hub, which was officially launched by the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio today at a linen service run by social enterprise McCallum Disability Services.
The $900,000 Community Power Hubs program, run by Sustainability Victoria, is being trialled for two years in the Ballarat, Bendigo and Latrobe regions. It is helping communities make the transition to community-owned renewable energy systems.
Sustainability Victoria acting CEO Jonathan Leake said the Ballarat Community Power Hub has provided $6,500 and considerable volunteer hours, support and expertise, to help McCallum Disability Services assess the feasibility of a new biomass boiler.
“A biomass system would reduce energy costs by $100,000 a year and be paid for in seven years”, he said. “The 2000kw system will be powered by locally-sourced timber waste, operate well-under Environment Protection Authority emissions requirements and produce relatively little ash.”
Greenhouse gas emissions reductions of up to 560 tonnes could be achieved if all natural gas is replaced.
McCallum is also considering installing a 99kW solar PV system that would cut the current electricity consumption from the grid by 47 per cent.
Mr Leake said that “importantly, reduced energy costs will allow for the expansion of services to provide additional employment for people with disabilities.”
The Community Power Hubs program is contributing to the delivery of the Victorian Government’s target of having 40 per cent of the state’s energy needs coming from renewable energy by 2025, and reduce Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Learnings from the pilot Community Power Hubs projects in Ballarat, Bendigo and Latrobe Valley will be applicable across the State, Australia and around the world.
In June 2016, the State Government committed to Victorian renewable energy generation targets of 25 per cent by 2020, and 40 per cent by 2025.