February 6th 2007
Solar City information begins to flow
In September last year it was announced that Magnetic Island was to be the focus of a, $30 million, major sustainable energy trial under the Australian Government's Solar Cities programme. The Solar City Project is now beginning to take shape and, to inform residents and property owners about how the project is to work and how they might benefit from it, magnetictimes.com, in conjunction with Ergon Energy, the Australian Government and the Queensland Government, has begun a new, dedicated, web section in which readers can learn about the project as it develops.
As for printed material, Ergon Energy's Magnetic Island customers can expect to receive an information package on the Solar City Project by mid 2007. The package will research their views and allow them to register their interest in being involved.
Magnetic Island is supplied with power by two submarine cables from Townsville and Ergon considers it to be an ideal trial location - "unique because of its clear physical demographic and electricity network boundaries. This supports a robust measurement and monitoring programme".
According to an Ergon press statement, "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 while reducing greenhouse gas emissions."
While planning is underway to roll out the project, Ergon Energy is negotiating the Solar Cities Project funding agreement with the Australian Greenhouse Office.
The project aims to instal a target of 500 solar photo voltaic (PV) systems on around one-third of the island's residential and commercial buildings as well as the installation of smart meters and energy efficiency measures in all 1700 network connected properties.
Manager Regional Services Paul Ryan said the first stage in the project will be a free energy audit of Ergon Energy's customers on the island.
"Over the next three years, all eligible residential and business customers will be offered a free, comprehensive energy audit. The audit will identify inefficient use of electricity leading to customers losing money and recommend behavioural and technical changes to save electricity and money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions," he said .
With the approval of the owner, the auditor will install basic energy-efficient devices such as compact fluorescent lamps and water-efficient showerheads at no charge.
Mr Ryan said customers involved with the program are likely to see a reduction in their electricity consumption.
"It's predicted that trial participants could reduce their electricity use between 10 and 40% which is a considerable saving and at the same time reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However this assumes no significant addition of appliances or increase in people in the house or business," he said.
It's estimated that over the period of the entire Solar City Project, greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 50,000 tonnes - the same benefit as taking 1,700 cars off the road for the seven years.
Ergon Energy will own and maintain the solar PV systems and those customers hosting them will continue to be connected to and supplied from Ergon Energy's network. Billing and all other existing arrangements will remain unchanged.
As part of the Solar City Project similar measures will be implemented at Serene Valley and Riverway as well as a Townsville CBD commercial building.
"Learning outcomes from the project will be extended across the whole of Queensland and beyond", he said.
ERGON'S SOLAR CITY PROJECT FACTS:
Project cost: Approximately $30 million
Project time frame: 2007 - 2013 (approximately)
Australian Government contribution: $15 million (to be negotiated)
Consortium contribution: Approximately $15million (including $5million from the Queensland Government through the Department of Energy
Project location: Magnetic Island, Serene Valley, Riverway and a Townsville CBD commercial building. The whole project is supported and enhanced by the Townsville City Council's Citisolar Community Capacity Building Programme.
500 solar PV systems
2500 smart meters, comprehensive demand-side management program
1700 energy audits
detailed monitoring for the trial.
Ergon Energy will be able to measure the impact of the trial on the island's energy consumption through the installation of:
*up to one megawatt of solar power across 500 selected residential and business premises, at no cost to the owner;
*1700 smart meters to monitor energy data;
*and in-house energy displays in 1700 premises to give householders and business owners more information about the use and cost of their electricity.
When fully implemented:
*estimated reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (associated with electricity generation and supply ) by about 50,000 tonnes - the same benefit as taking 1,700 cars off the road for the seven years.
* national and possibly international recognition of the initiative and the city involved.
* more environmentally friendly power for customers involved in the programme at no additional cost.
* potential for customers involved in the energy efficiency element to improve their comfort levels reduce their power consumption and therefore their bills and their environmental impact.
* active support for Townsville City Council's Citisolar Programme, therefore making the region a more attractive place to live, work and visit.
* increased awareness across Queensland and Australia of renewable energy options.
* jobs growth for regional Queensland
* an opportunity for Ergon Energy to develop business models that may ultimately support solar generation on a much larger scale.
Ergon Energy is the lead proponent and has responsibility for the delivery of the project.
The other partners are:
* Queensland Government: Department Mines and Energy as lead agency for Queensland Government.
*Townsville City Council
* Delfin Townsville (proposed Serene Valley residential housing project)
* HIG Riverway (Riverway housing project in Thuringowa)
The consortium consists of entities that have strong existing relationships, are well credentialed, have proven capability and full supply chain expertise.
Key supporters are:
* Ampy Metering (smart meter supplier)
* Kyocera Australia (solar PV supplier)
* Thuringowa City Council
* Townsville Port Authority
* Townsville Enterprise Limited
* James Cook University
* Centre for Excellence in Tropical Design (Sustainability and Innovation)
* Reef HQ
* Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
All participants have convincing drivers underpinning their involvement and enthusiasm for the venture's success. Collectively they capture all essential elements of the Australian Government's Solar Cities programme.
To learn more about the Solar City Project on Magnetic Island (Click here)
Photo at top: Courtesy of Ergon Energy shows how the Solar City Community Day held on the Strand on 20 March 2006 demonstrated community support for the bid to make Townsville, of which Magnetic Island is a suburb, a Solar City.