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FAQ

Overview and Funding

Why is this important?
  • To make sure that we are better prepared for the next disaster.
  • To allow us to take advantage of the worldwide shift to renewables and to benefit from the significant investment that is now being directed into renewable energy production.
  • To make sure that we don’t get left behind simply because we are a rural community.
  • To control of our own power instead of relying on importing electricity and fossil fuels to burn from elsewhere.
  • To keep money in the local community.
  • To contribute to Bega Valley efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
Why is a microgrid a good idea?

A microgrid will allow the town to generate its electricity locally, and to remain powered, even if the main grid goes down. This has several benefits

  • It means increased resilience and self-reliance in the event of future disasters which disrupt the electricity supply.
  • We can generate our own electricity locally, instead of importing it from the main grid.
  • We can proactively transition away from fossil fuels and towards cheaper, cleaner, renewable energy, even if the rest of the grid is slow to transition.
  • We are hoping that there will be some community ownership, which means that some of the profits will stay in the community.
  • Cobargo can be an example for how communities can improve their power infrastructure, massively increase the amount of renewables on the grid, and hopefully do it in a way that saves money overall, whilst keeping the lights on!
What is the catch? How will this affect me?

There isn’t one! If you do nothing, then your power bill will stay the same, you’ll stay with the same retailer. The only difference will be that during blackouts, the part of the town covered by the microgrid will still have power.

A community survey was conducted in November 2021, which showed a great deal of support for renewable energy. This followed a Cobargo community meeting back in December 2019, which expressed strong support for the Bega Valley Shire Council’s commitment to 100 per cent renewables by 2030.

All members of the Cobargo community are invited to participate in the community discussions, which begin in March. Alternatively, you can send your questions and comments to us through the form on this website.

Who is working on this project?

The Project Plan for the Cobargo Microgrid Feasibility Study and Load Control Trial has been developed collaboratively by ITP Developments and the Cobargo and District Energy Transition Group (CaDET). CaDET is a coalition of residents, business owners, farmers and other interested parties working in collaboration with the Cobargo community and relevant organisations. The main project contractor will be ITP Renewables.

How is it being funded?

The current feasibility study and design stage is funded as part of the Remote and Regional Communities Reliability Fund (RRCRF). This is a Commonwealth Government grant fund specifically for feasibility studies into microgrids in regional areas to study “more reliable, secure and cost effective energy supply for regional and remote communities in Australia”.

This is not a bushfire recovery grant. It is  money that is specifically targeted towards projects that aim to improve the reliability and reduce the cost of electricity supply to rural and regional communities.

Once the feasibility study and design are complete, we will need to secure funding to actually purchase the solar panels, battery, generators and other equipment, and to install and commission it. We are currently looking into options for how to finance this, and are hoping that there will be some element of community ownership, so that revenue generated by selling the electricity will stay within the community. There are also additional government grants availble which we are looking in to which could subsidise the cost.

Will the microgrid be community owned?

We hope to have at least some portion of community ownership. Community ownership would mean that some of the profits from selling the electricity would remain in the community, and encourage a sense of pride and ownership, as well as interest in personal energy use and efficiency which will help households lower power bills. We are currently looking into different financing and ownership models which would make sense.

Microgrid details

Where will the microgrid be located?

CaDET and ITP have been working with the Cobargo community to examine options and potential sites as part of their bushfire recovery planning. Consultations have also commenced with Essential Energy’s Grid-connection and Innovation teams. There are many factors to consider including the availabilty of land, proximity to the electrical substation and existing power lines, required area, etc.

Will the microgrid include solar/wind/diesel backup?

The current design has the microgrid powered primarily from a single community-scale solar farm with a large community-scale battery to provide power all day. We are also provisioning for a backup generator which would run only if needed – for example if the grid power was out for several days in a row and there was cloud or smoke reducing the amount that the solar panels could generate. In normal operation the generator would not run, and would only be for emergency backup

When will it be complete?

The current feasibility study will be finished by 2023.

After the feasibility study is complete, the next phase will be finding funding and commencing the actual construction, which could potentially begin immediately after the feasibility study completes.

Will my house/business be included in the microgrid?

It depends. At this stage, with the the current funding and available space, we probably can’t power the entire town. We are still working out the details, but it will likely include the main street, a number of public buildings such as the school of arts hall, and houses on several nearby steets. For houses outside the microgrid area, remember that there is no downside – the microgrid would only provide power to the town when the grid power would already be out anyway.

Can the microgrid be expanded in the future?

Yes!

Even though the current proposal will only cover a portion of the town near the main street, it could be expanded in the future to cover all the houses in the town, and even possibly the surrounding properties. This would require a larger solar farm and more batteries, but once the initial concept is proven it could be expanded in the future.

How can we move forward with this project?

A feasibility Study has been commissioned to sort out the numerous technical issues. A key objective of the microgrid feasibility study will be to work with Essential Energy to more clearly define the technical requirements, approval processes and operating protocols for microgrids that can temporarily energise part of Essential Energy’s network in island mode.

How will this affect electricity costs?

Solar is currently one of the cheapest ways to generate electricity, and it is still going down in price. The more solar connected to the grid, the cheaper electricity becomes for everyone. By coupling it with a large battery we can charge it up during the day and discharge in the evening when electricity demand is highest, again, lowering the cost of electricity for everyone.

There are also other costs associated with transferring energy from where it is generated to where it is needed, and maintaining all of the infrastructure. By generating electricity locally and having a large battery to absorb peaks in demand, it can potentially reduce the need for costly upgrades of grid infrastrucutre such as transmission/distribution power lines, or transformers at the substation. Working out the saving here is complicated, but if done right it can potentially reduce the amount of money spent on upgrading and maintaining the grid, which again lowers electricity bills for everyone.

Because the community solar and battery will be directly connected to the grid, you won’t see any itemised discount on your power bill. However, projects like this around the country will all contribute to lowering electricity prices for the whole country. We are also hoping that it will be possible to offer some form of community ownership of the solar farm and battery, so that a portion of the revenue from selling excess power back to the grid would stay within the community.