Victorian Budget Funds For Renewable Newstead Solar Farm Project

Renewable Newstead - solar energy

Image: Renewable Newstead via Facebook

Monday’s budget held good news for solar buyers throughout Victoria, but the town of Newstead had an additional reason to celebrate with the honouring of an election commitment.

Newstead is situated in Central Victoria on the Loddon River in the Shire of Mount Alexander. It’s approximately 15 minutes from Castlemaine and around 1.5 hours north-west of Melbourne.

Renewable Newstead is a project with a goal to supply the town (population: estimated 754) with 100 per cent renewable energy for its electricity requirements; 100 per cent locally generated, grid-connected, reliable and affordable.

Back in 2015, the project received $200,000 from the Victorian Government to fund the development of a viable and sustainable long-term model for a small town to generate its own electricity via renewables. And there’s more cash to come.

In addition to the budgeted $545 million to go towards Victoria’s statewide Solar Homes Package, somewhat buried in Monday’s budget papers was this:

“The Government will make a funding contribution to a 10-megawatt solar farm for Newstead. This initiative delivers on the Government’s election commitment as published in Labor’s Financial Statement 2018.”

That commitment was announced in November last year by Bendigo West MP Maree Edwards.

$1 million has been earmarked in 2019/20 for the facility, and other deals and partnerships have been formed to help bring the Newstead dream to reality.

Last month Renewable Newstead published an announcement seeking expressions of interest from local landholders to lease land for the solar farm1. The group is interested in “flattish” parcels of land with few trees and close to transmission infrastructure that would be leased for 20 years. Sheep would be permitted to continue grazing on the land.

Newstead Big On Small-Scale Solar

Rooftop solar energy has already made its mark in the area. In Newstead’s postcode – 3462 – which also incorporates Green Gully, Joyce’s Creek, Muckleford South, Sandon and Welshmans Reef, there are 228 small scale solar power systems installed with a collective capacity of 758kW. That’s pretty impressive for an area with a total population of 1,173 (Census 2016), working out to around 646 watts per capita (Australian average is ~344 watts per capita.)

Newstead isn’t the only small Victorian town looking to go 100% renewable. Other projects include the award-winning Totally Renewable Yackandandah (TRY), and Totally Renewable Beechworth; which was inspired by TRY’s efforts.

Footnotes

  1. In the announcement, the size of the proposed solar farm is noted as 2-10MW
About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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