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Solar Schemes Booming

NREG News Article

This article was written by Taelor Pelusey of the Busselton Dunsborough Times
Friday 16th September 2016

Renewable energy uptake in the region is hurtling forward with help from a local non-profit group’s multi-staged approach. The Naturaliste Renewable Energy Group’s first stage recently oversaw the installation of 25 solar photovoltaic, or solar PV, systems in properties in the area through a bulk-buy deal struck with WA-based solar company Save Energy.

As part of the deal, Save Energy will now donate a solar PV system to a non-profit community group or organisation. NREG chairman Christian Fletcher said the group was thrilled by how quickly it hit its target, and was now on the lookout for an appropriate recipient.
“We hit our first target in six months, which was great,” he said. “But there’s always more we can do.”

NREG will soon roll out the next two stages involving a community-owned solar scheme and batteries for storing excess energy. NREG is exploring businesses willing to operate a 100kw solar PV system, which Mr Fletcher said would operate as a “mini power plant” allowing the community to “buy in on”.

Save Energy sales manager Sean Scanlon said the State Government’s recent changes to power purchase agreements had made it easier for community-owned solar schemes to operate. “Instead of us getting a retailer licence like Synergy or Perth Energy, we can just negotiate directly with the business owner or property owner,” he said. “It’s made it a lot easier for us.”

The State Government announced the changes last month allowing power purchase agreements to sell electricity to consumers without a retail licence by applying to the Public Utilities Office for an exemption. In a statement, Energy Minister Mike Nahan said the changes would help the emerging market expand ways to access “innovative and renewable sources of electricity at an affordable price”.

The moves to cut red tape complement the region’s interest in solar PV, which sits above the national average. Mr Scanlon said Busselton has one of the “highest penetrations” of solar energy, at about 20 per cent, and partly put it down to the region’s environmental awareness. “I think people are a bit more environmentally aware here,” he said. “People here also tend to stay in their houses longer, so they’re more willing to invest in their properties.”

Mr Fletcher said the group had shifted its original focus from wind, and was now exploring a range of renewable options including tree-planting and solar thermal ponds. “We did look into wind energy, but it’s just not feasible here,” he said. “But there’s a whole lot of people with a bunch of weird and wonderful ideas.”

To nominate a non-profit community group or organisation for the donated solar PV system, email info@nreg.com.au

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