Wind Power Supports More Solar Energy In VIC’s Golden Plains

Solar panels - Golden Plains Shire

A bunch of community buildings in Victoria’s Golden Plains Shire now have solar panels thanks to a local wind farm.

Golden Plains Shire is located in western Victoria. It covers an area of 2,703 square kilometres and has around 23,000 residents; 5,000 of whom live in Bannockburn, where solar panels are already a fairly common sight.

Golden Plains and neighbouring Corangamite Shire are also home to GPG Australia’s Berrybank Stage-1 Wind Farm, which commenced commercial operations in July this year. Comprised of 43 turbines with a total installed capacity of 180 MW,  Stage 1 is expected to generate 644,000 megawatt-hours of clean, renewable electricity each year. Stage-2 of the project will see up to an additional 36 turbines constructed across the two shires.

As well as contributing to knocking more fossil-fuel based electricity out of the grid and driving down emissions in doing so, the wind farm is supporting the local community in a variety of ways.

As part of the Berrybank Wind Farm’s Community Engagement and Benefit Sharing Plan, solar panels have now been installed on a number of Council- and community-owned facilities under a $170,500 solar power program.

So far, a total of 195 panels have been installed across seven sites including the Bannockburn Family Services Centre and Meredith Community Centre. The program will also see PV installations on low-income housing in the Shire.

“In addition to reducing carbon emissions, the installation of rooftop solar systems to local community facilities and low-income housing will significantly decrease their electricity bills,” said Berrybank’s Community Engagement Officer Nathan Micallef

Other facilities with systems installed under the program are Woady Yaloak Kindergarten, Northern Community Centre, Inverleigh Early Learning Centre, Haddon Kindergarten and Teesdale Children’s Centre.

Big Renewables Bringing Enduring Community Benefits

Large-scale renewables can do a lot of good in the community beyond what is often a sugar-hit of jobs during the construction phase.

While it’s always exciting to read about ambitious major wind power and solar energy projects, much smaller systems like those above are also making a significant and ongoing positive difference in the lives of Australians. For community organisations and councils, installing solar panels helps free up funds otherwise spent on energy that can be redirected to other important activities, benefiting many.

Another example of large-scale renewables doing good is the community benefits package accompanying the Stubbo Solar Farm project in New South Wales. This includes an initial payment of $100,000 to Mid-Western Regional Council, plus around $120,000 annually in contributions for community enhancement projects. Also in New South Wales, Bomen Solar Farm is pitching in $250,000 for an ambitious revegetation project among other contributions.

Community benefit programs aren’t confined to renewable energy projects of course; fossil fuel ventures often feature them too. The difference is in the case of the latter, it’s good being done to offset the not-so-good (emissions and other environmental damage), while in the former it’s more a case of good building on good.

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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