Floating solar, battery manufacturing co-op among nine projects funded in coal country Victoria


The Victorian government has announced $1.98 million in funding to be shared between nine community-led renewable projects in the Latrobe Valley area, traditionally Victoria’s coal stronghold.

The funding is part of the state government’s $3 million Latrobe Valley Energy and Growth Program, from which $1 million was allocated last year.

The projects funded include a floating solar demonstration project at Lardner Park which has been allocated almost $210,000. The solar project, led by the Gippsland Climate Change Network, will use the “underutilised” lake to ensure viable land for agriculture remains free, simultaneously reducing evaporation and preventing algae growth.

NSW’s Lismore array, on council wastewater facilities, was one of Australia’s first floating systems built back in 2017.

Lismore City Council

Nearly $240,000 in funding will go to Earthworker Energy Manufacturing Cooperative to design, develop and manufacture portable solar-battery systems to assist emergency services during extreme weather events. Earthworker has a worker-owned factory (hence the ‘cooperative’) in Morwell, where solar hot water technology and heat pumps are already being made.

More than $390,000 will also be provided to the Yarram Recreation Reserve to install solar, a battery and a portable renewable energy system to ensure the local state emergency services, fire authority and Red Cross which use the reserve will have access to power during outages and emergencies. 

The other projects to receive funding include solar installations for the Yallambee Aged Care Energy Optimisation Demonstration, the Renewable Growth for Heyfield Project and the Gippsland Employment Skills Training Project. 

Two storage projects have also receive a cut, including Sunny Afternoons which has been allocated more than $210,000 to install battery energy storage systems at dairy farms in the Latrobe Valley. 

Finally, the Wellington Shire Council has been funded to complete the feasibility of geoexchange/geothermal technology, though no more details of the project nor the precise allocation of funding are known.

Victoria’s Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio, who announced the funding on Monday, said the nine projects will mean regional Victoria remains “a leader in energy, engineering and innovation.” 

“This is about supporting local businesses to deliver renewable energy systems that not only slash emissions and electricity bills, but provide power during extreme weather events, improve community resilience,” she added. 

Member for Eastern Victoria, Harriet Shing, said the projects would also ensure the coal heartland makes the most of its skilled workforce and transmission infrastructure.

The first $1 million round of funding for the Latrobe Valley program went to the Ramahyuck District Aboriginal Corporation to construct a 4.9 MW solar farm. The Ramahyuck solar farm, announced in September last year, will be the first solar farm wholly owned and operated by an Aboriginal Corporation, and the first on Aboriginal-owned land in Victoria. 

The Ramahyuck District Aboriginal Corporation also received funding to install install solar arrays atop the Heyfield and District Museum, Coongulla Community Hall, Heyfield Golf Club and Heyfield Tennis Club.

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