Project update - Zoom meeting Thursday, Sept 10. 7:25pm for a 7:30pm start

Renewable Newstead is inviting the local community to an update on our project.

Hear about:

  • Brief project summary
  • What’s happening now
  • Next steps

Got any questions ? Here’s your chance to ask them. Thursday Sept 10. 7.30-8.30pm. email us info@renewablenewstead.com.au before 5pm on Thursday Sept 10 to request a Zoom link to join the meeting.

Renewable Newstead (RN), the community group behind the innovative plan for a solar farm of up to 10 megawatts (MW), says the planning permit application is a great step towards its goal of delivering affordable and reliable renewable energy to Newstead and surrounds.

“We have applied for a permit to build a solar farm big enough to generate enough electricity for Newstead (2-3MW) plus some extra to make it viable for a commercial partner to build and operate,” RN’s spokesperson Gen Barlow said.

“Our permit, if granted, would allow a solar array of up to 10MW or up to 27, 400 solar photovoltaic panels, though the size is not finalised. The panels will track the sun.

“We have been working towards this for nine years, ever since our community said it wanted to address our energy needs and emissions, and for our volunteer group and our community, this is a very exciting phase.”

The proposed site is the corner of Captains Gully Rd and Clarke Lane, 3km west of Newstead. The panels would cover about 20hectares of the 73hectare site.

This site was chosen from six sites offered by local landowners in response to our call for expressions of interest in leasing land for the farm. The land is currently grazed and will be leased from its owner for 25 years. Grazing can continue.

The solar array will be connected to the current 22kV powerline that runs along the Pyrenees Highway, 500 metres north of the site.

“While the farm plan itself is fairly standard, albeit modest in size, it’s the model for the farm’s operation and retailing the electricity generated by it, that is especially innovative and one that we think will excite the energy industry,” Gen said.

“We believe our model will deliver renewably-sourced electricity at lower prices to all, including renters and people who can’t afford to install solar panels at home, while also
accounting for grid costs. That’s a pretty good trifecta and one we think solves a lot of issues for delivering renewable energy locally.”

“Power distributor Powercor partnered with us to trial a special tariff for Newstead that will help this project deliver.”

It’s expected construction would begin within 12 months of the planning permit being granted.

The planning permit application is open for review and a decision by the Planning Minister is not expected before September 23, 2020.

Renewable Newstead would also welcome any feedback, comment or queries via email at info@renewablenewstead.com.au or via our website at www.renewablenewstead.com.au

In another key step, Renewable Newstead will this week call for expressions of interest from companies keen to build and operate the generator and retail the electricity it produces.

This will set the stage for a formal call for tenders for these contracts later this year.

Contacts for media
Genevieve Barlow, Renewable Newstead 0427 762633 (available after 1.30pm Thurs & Fri)
Geoff Park, Renewable Newstead, 0418 138 632
For questions about the planning permit application process, Fi Cotter of Energy Forms, 0408 587 095

To start gathering information, the team leading this project is asking Mount Alexander Shire households to complete a survey and will also set up space online at OurSay where people can submit  ideas for helping reach zero net emissions.

  1. Click here to fill in the household survey 

The survey will help the Z-Net MAS project team understand how we as the community of Mount Alexander Shire currently use energy in our homes, how we travel and use water and waste.  According to the Z-Net MAS team, by completing this survey you will provide valuable bottom-up and localised data to help guide  Mount Alexander Shire’s transition.

Please answer the questions in accordance with your ‘typical’ behaviour, rather than your behaviour during COVID-19 restrictions and only one respondee per household. Please share this with local friends, family and neighbours via email and social media, so that we can get a genuine representative sample.

  1. Provide community project ideas (to be released in June)

A collaborative platform called OurSay is being set up to harvest community climate action ideas and projects. This platform will include existing ideas from the Shire’s Climate Change Forum and will be open for all community members to add new ideas and vote on their priorities.

A community steering group has been established to guide the program in this first phase.

The program is being led by Renew in collaboration with the community. Renew led the Hepburn Z-NET program which was developed as an open-source model and all of the developed resources are being shared for the Mount Alexander Shire program.

Partial funding for this program has been secured from Sustainability Victoria under the Zero Carbon Community Transition Program and Mount Alexander Shire Council.

Renewable Newstead is holding our first online community meeting and you are invited!

The online community meeting will update the people of Newstead and its immediate surrounds about the site we’ve chosen for the town’s proposed small scale solar farm and the next steps we’ll now need to take.

The online community meeting/webinar is on Wednesday July 1 at 7pm and is open to all locals. To attend you’ll need to register. Details about how to register are further below.

During the webinar you’ll find out why the site was chosen, what the farm will look like, how the solar panels will track the sun and where you can read Renewable Newstead’s application for a planning permit for the solar farm.

That application is detailed. It includes the proposed set-back or buffer areas between the farm and roads and assessments of the farm’s impact on agriculture, heritage, flora and fauna, the landscape, aviation and other aspects.

That application is now before the Victorian Planning Minister who is the responsible authority for granting planning permits for renewable energy facilities bigger than 1 megawatt. (This is not a local Mount Alexander Shire Council decision.)

We’ve decided to hold a webinar in place of a community meeting. We would have had to limit the numbers attending a community meeting to 50 people under current COVID-19 restrictions across the state. This way we can cater for more.

The proposed site is a 20hectare block on the corner of Clarke’s Lane and Captain Gully Rd, just 3km west of town.

Owner Alan Petersen currently uses it to graze sheep and offered the land for lease in response to Renewable Newstead’s call out to landowners keen to make space for the farm.

We are so grateful for the offers we had. After many studies which consider access to roads, powerlines, topography and other factors, we have settled on this site.

This is a significant step for our Renewable Newstead volunteer team as we work towards achieving our community’s goal of sourcing renewable energy locally and in a way that everyone, regardless of their roof suitability, income or tenancy status, can access.

We are keen for as many people as possible to join our online community meeting/webinar  where questions will be welcome at the end.

It’s a great way to tune in to Renewable Newstead’s project progress. We know that not everyone has access to a computer and/or the internet at all times. So a few of us will also be at the Newstead Transaction Centre on Thursday July 2, Monday July 6 and again on Thursday July 9 from 9am to 12pm to answer any queries you might have.

The application provides for a solar farm of up to 9MW about 3km west of Newstead at the corner of Captain Gully Rd and Clarkes Lane. It will have up to 27,400 panels that track the sun. The application outlines the proposed buffer areas between the farm and roads and includes assessments of the farm’s impact on agriculture, heritage, flora and fauna, the landscape, aviation and other aspects.

COVID-19 restrictions meant we couldn’t get everyone together at the community centre as we otherwise would have to update the community about the site, how and why it was selected and the next steps we’ll now need to take.

Instead we ran a webinar online on July 1 and drop-in sessions at the Rural Transaction Centre early last month for those who couldn’t join the webinar or who had further queries. Twelve people called in to learn more about the solar farm and to ask about matters ranging from the solar farm’s scope and scale, traffic during construction and landscaping and the timeline for construction.

Some key points about RN’s proposed solar farm are that it will be:

  • commercially viable and grid-connected
  • managed by a retail partner for locals to opt in (or not)
  • constructed and managed by a commercial partner
  • day time (renewable) energy use will be rewarded with cheaper rates

The decision to approve, or not, the planning permit will be made by the Victorian Planning Minister. (This is not a local Mount Alexander Shire Council decision.)

When officially released by the Minister, the application will be available online and at the RTC.

People will have 28 days from its posting to submit formal objections. Renewable Newstead is also available to respond to any queries about the application.

To view the application:

RN’s meetings on the first Monday of each month (online at 7pm) are open to community members. The next one is Aug 3.  Please email Kirsty to register to attend so she can send you an invitation.   

For more info about the project, call Geoff Park 0418 138 632, Don Culvenor on 0427 573 536 or Genevieve Barlow on 0427 762633.

Subscribe to RN’s mailing list for updates by emailing info@renewablenewstead.com.au

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