'Mini grid' to be installed in Yackandandah as the next step for solar energy

EXCITING TIMES: Totally Renewable Yackandandah's Matthew Charles-Jones and Ben McGowan say a mini-grid trial would build on the town's work to install solar panels.

EXCITING TIMES: Totally Renewable Yackandandah's Matthew Charles-Jones and Ben McGowan say a mini-grid trial would build on the town's work to install solar panels.

One of Australia’s first commercial solar “mini grids” will be constructed in Yackandandah, in the town’s latest move towards becoming reliant on renewable energy.

When AusNet Services was looking for somewhere to trial its new energy technology, it approached the Totally Renewable Yackandandah community group, already looking for ways to become 100 per cent reliant on solar by 2022.

From about June, 16 homes in a small estate will join the mini grid.

While solar panels are becoming more affordable, batteries to store the energy for times the sun is not shining are still out of most people’s price range.

AusNet will contribute $250,000 to subside the cost of batteries for homes in the initial trial.

Community energy manager Mark Judd said the company would work with occupants on how they use their power, individually and as a group.

“They’ll be able to operate as standalone houses, but they’ll also have the ability to share their power,” he said.

“There’s a worldwide push (around renewable energy), but Yackandandah is a key group in pushing for solar … as a power company, it’s important we participate in that.”

TRY president Matthew Charles-Jones said he believed this would be the first commercial solar mini-grid in Australia, where residents were involved in the buy-in.

“We feel really fortunate that AusNet have highlighted us to take part in this trial,” he said.

Those involved in the trial signalled their interest after conversations with the energy company and Mr Charles-Jones said although no one would be forced to buy technology, buying electricity from power plants was not the way of the future.

“The way we could quickly get to 100 per cent is to have this across Yackandandah,” he said.

“There are so many good reasons to go to renewable and we’ve just given them another reason to get involved in a community approach.”

TRY’s Ben McGowan said the solar mini grid could solve the issue of homes still having to purchase energy at night when the sun goes down.

“That’s where this whole thing is moving – a shared economy,” he said.

TRY and AusNet will hold two meetings at the Yackandandah Public Hall at 11am and 7pm on February 9 with more information on the new project.