CBD can’t go off the electricity grid

By Emma Doherty

Living in the CBD and considering going “off the grid”? Think again.

According to the chair of the Australian PV Institute (APVI), Dr Renate Egan, solar PV energy systems are not possible for locals.

With an increasing number of high-rise towers emerging across the CBD skyline, it’s made it increasingly difficult for residents to consider a greener energy alternative.

Dr Egan’s comments follow the release of the APVI Solar Potential Tool (SunSPoT) technology, which allows users to see an area’s potential to generate electricity through PV solar.

Receiving live data from various sources, the online mapping tool details the environmental impact and potential financial savings of converting to solar.

In recent years, the Climate Council has noticed a push for greener energy consumption by Australian businesses and residents. Reports show that there are an increasing number of large-scale installations at airports, mines, healthcare facilities and businesses. It also shows that Australia is a world leader in household solar, with one in five households powered by solar energy.

However, despite these rising numbers, only 15 per cent of households in Victoria and NSW are powered by solar.

According to Dr Egan, areas like the CBD could not solely be powered by solar as the “energy footprint required is quite large. They just wouldn’t be able to provide enough electricity by solar”.

Nonetheless, the APVI have seen a surge in city residents looking to alternative models.

“The other successful model is when the community owns renewables, so when you buy a share of an installation. And that could be an installation on a building near you or it could be a large-scale array on shared land,” says Dr Egan.  “Sometimes it’s not a direct benefit in that it doesn’t flow to your home, it flows to the grid. But it shows there are lots of interesting new business models being developed that are allowing people who can’t put it on their roof to still have access to solar.”

Whilst solar isn’t a possibility for CBD residents, it does not rule out other renewable energy sources. In March, the City of Melbourne announced construction has started on a wind farm near Ararat to harvest renewable energy as part of the Melbourne Renewable Energy Project (MREP).

Led by the City of Melbourne, the project includes the University of Melbourne, RMIT, Federation Square, City of Port Phillip, City of Yarra, Moreland City Council, Bank Australia, Zoos Victoria, Citywide, National Australia Bank, Australia Post, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre and NEXTDC, and is in collaboration with clean energy company Pacific Hydro.

Speaking of the project, Acting Lord Mayor Arron Wood said: “This is the first project of its kind in Australia. No other renewables project has tackled the complexity of 14 partners in one buying group. We are proud to reach this milestone after announcing the Melbourne Renewable Energy Project (MREP) in November 2017.”

“The Crowlands wind farm will save MREP customers 96,000 tonnes of CO2 every year – an innovative approach to creating and purchasing renewable energy and also a great example of how a major city with a $92 billion economy can influence positive outcomes in our regional towns,” he said.

The project marks the first time that a collective of local governments, cultural organisations, universities and corporations have together invested in renewable energy. With the intent on purchasing 88 GWh of energy, which is enough to power 17,600 households in Melbourne for a year. The project also hopes to provide more than 140 jobs in regional Victoria.

The city’s investment in renewable energy wind farms is just one more way it is taking action against climate change.

“MREP will be replicated all over Australia by groups like ours going direct to market to purchase their renewable energy. Several big corporates have already announced power purchase agreements and that number will continue to climb,” Cr Wood said.

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