Workers installing solar panels

The City of Hobsons Bay in Melbourne will be fitting over 40 buildings with solar panels as part of its large-scale virtual power plant and solar panel roll out, reducing the Council’s reliance on grid-supplied energy.

The Altona Civic Centre, Newport Community Hub and the Laverton building that houses social enterprise Mesh Mash are the latest Council-owned community facilities to host their new ‘solar system’.

The rooftop panels will generate renewable energy required onsite, and surplus clean, green power will be moved from one building to another within the network.

Mayor of Hobsons Bay, Jonathon Marsden, said, “Our Virtual Power project provides substantial environmental, community and economic benefits, as well as creating local jobs.

“Importantly, it has the capacity to be expanded or replicated across the western region, Melbourne or Victoria, stimulating the same surge of benefits in communities across the state. 

“We look forward to future opportunities to partner with the State Government to expand the impact and benefits of this program.”

Partnering with Council on the project is Australian firm Enervest, who specialises in the design, delivery and operation of solar-energy generation and storage assets. Also partnering is Circle Energy who provide the technology to help move solar energy between buildings.

Once installation at all sites is complete in the coming months, Council will have the capacity to generate almost 4MW of solar power across the network, which is enough energy required to power approximately 1,000 average Victorian households.

The system will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by almost 4,000 tonnes per year, which is up to 55 per cent of Council’s total carbon emissions, the equivalent of taking almost 600 homes off the grid.

At the Altona Civic Centre, one of the network’s high yield sites, the 402kW system will supply about 80 per cent of the building’s energy needs, preventing the release of an estimated 642 tonnes of carbon dioxide into our environment annually. 

The 513,555kW of estimated energy generated annually on site is enough energy to supply over 110 average Victorian households. Over 2,000m2 of panel coverage is in place at the centre, which is over the size of four and a half standard basketball courts. 

Council has future proofed the project by equipping it with capacity for batteries to make it a true virtual power plant. There will be a number of possible opportunities to use this battery-stored energy, such as powering the Council’s electric vehicle fleet in the future.

Council’s infrastructure investment in the project is expected to be repaid from energy savings within nine years.

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