February 6th 2007
Solar City Project - an introduction
An Ergon Energy-led consortium has won the right to host a Solar City Project in Townsville as part of the Australian Government's Solar Cities $75m programme. The project will receive $15m in funding from the Australian Government and will be matched by a consortium contribution of $15m. The programme 'is designed to demonstrate how solar power, smart meters, energy efficiency and new approaches to electricity pricing can combine to provide a sustainable energy future in urban locations throughout Australia. It is a partnership approach that involves all levels of Government, the private sector and the local community'.
The Solar City Community Day held on the Strand on 20 March 2006 proved the community was supportive of the bid to make Townsville a Solar City.
The major component of the Townsville project will be implemented on Magnetic Island, with benefits for the entire community and the environment. Here are the details, and more will be advised as they are confirmed:
*The Solar City Project is expected to be launched in late 2007.
*All island residents and business owners on mains electricity, i.e. Ergon Energy customers, will receive a survey and package of information by mail before the launch. The package will include an opportunity to register interest in being involved.
*Over the following three years, all eligible island residents and business owners will be offered a free, comprehensive energy assessment. The assessment, and all other aspects of the project is voluntary. A convenient time will be arranged with the owner and/or tenants for the auditor to visit.
*The assessor will identify areas where customers are wasting electricity, and therefore losing money, and make recommendations on solutions and describe ways to create habits that save electricity, money and greenhouse gas emissions. The assessor will install basic energy-efficient devices such as compact fluorescent lamps and water-efficient showerheads at no charge and with the approval of the owner. It is predicted that trial participants will be able to reduce their electricity use by between 10 and 40%.
*The assessor will also assess the premises for its suitability to host a solar photovoltaic (PV) system, considering issues such as the suitability of the roof structure, the amount of sun exposure the roof receives, and importantly, the willingness of the owner to have a solar PV system on the roof.
*The project is targeting installation of 500 solar PV systems on around one-third of roofs on the island.
*A typical 1.5 kilowatt residential PV system will take up approximately 14 square metres of roof. Larger systems can be installed on commercial premises where relevant.
*To allow island residents to use solar power without the high investment cost, the solar PV system will be supplied and owned by Ergon Energy. Customers with solar PV systems will continue to be connected to and supplied from the Ergon Energy network, and billing and all other existing arrangements will remain unchanged. That is, any customer who agrees to host a solar PV system will not receive a reduction in their electricity bill.
*The residential version of the solar PV system will generate approximately one-third of an average household's electricity needs.
*Customers are also encouraged to support renewable energy through Clean Energy from Ergon Energy for as little as $10 per bill.
*The environmental credentials of Magnetic Island are likely to be enhanced through the project, especially to ecotourists from around the world.
*At a point in the project, trial electricity prices will be offered on the island in addition to standard prices. These prices will provide further financial incentives for customers to use less electricity at peak times of demand, which are usually evenings and hot days.
Why is Ergon Energy implementing this project on the island?
Ergon Energy is constantly seeking more efficient ways to meet the electricity needs of regional Queenslanders. With significant financial contributions from both the Australian and Queensland governments, this project will facilitate the creation of a model of community-based renewable energy and energy efficiency measures. The project will help island residents save money on their electricity bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The island's electricity is supplied from the mainland by two underwater cables with a limited capacity. These cables can be complemented with back-up generation on the island as needed, however, the demand for electricity on the island at peak times is increasing.
Working together, the Australian Government with Ergon Energy, the Queensland Government, Townsville City Council and an enthusiastic community will create a unique project with important local, national and global sustainability outcomes.
Note: All information is correct at the time of publication and is provided in good faith to inform the island community. The final model may differ slightly pending funding contract and supplier negotiations.