A reconditioned wind turbine or a solar garden? Those were two options before clean energy advocates in the Victorian town of Mallacoota.
The town, home to about 1,100 people, is one of the most isolated in Victoria. It is supplied by a single 22kV line that spans 240km through the bush and suffers frequent outages. There was something of break-through in 2021, when network owner AusNet Services installed a $7.5m, 1MWh community battery, 1MW generator and microgrid system – big enough to supply power to 1,000 homes for approximately two hours and improve power reliability in Mallacoota by around 90 per cent.
This was a game-changer, says Tricia Hiley (pictured), co-founder of the volunteer Mallacoota Sustainable Energy Group: “It meant we could contemplate becoming totally renewable here.” Recently, the group has considered adding a solar garden and/or a reconditioned wind turbine on land at the local wastewater treatment plant – but needed expert help to find out if these ideas were feasible.
Enter Middleton Group engineers Jason Gomes, Abrar Aziz and Roger Brown, who investigated the wind conditions at the proposed site and the permits and regulations relating to turbines. Modelling assuming an 800kW turbine showed that wind speeds in the area were relatively low and that such a project would be a poor return on investment.
Jason, Abrar and Roger explored sunshine hours and solar grids of 20kW, 50kW and 100kW, recommending the latter as it offered a good return on investment. In their report, Jason and Abrar explained the evidence and outlined the pathway the community could take to get their solar garden underway.
Tricia was very happy with the outcome: “We needed insights into aspects of our vision that we couldn’t get on our own,” she says. “Middleton Group has provided much food for thought and plenty of potential actions and next steps for us to take.”
Senior Power Engineer