Support powers plant plan

Taelor PeluseyBusselton Dunsborough Times
Emma Morgan and the Dunsborough Community Community Energy Project will harness energy of the sun for WA's first virtual power plant.
Camera IconEmma Morgan and the Dunsborough Community Community Energy Project will harness energy of the sun for WA's first virtual power plant. Credit: Taelor Pelusey

Australia’s first 100 per cent privately funded virtual power plant will roll out to Dunsborough early next year, with more than 100 people now signed up and a Swiss investment firm confirming its $12.5 million commitment to the project.

The innovative model will see up to 1000 solar and battery systems installed in participants’ homes — paid for by sustainable investor SUSI Partners AG — then leased from the Dunsborough Community Energy Project for a flat fee.

The Times broke news of what will be WA’s first virtual power plant in September, and the newly-formed not-for-profit hit the minimum number of sign-ups for the project to begin last week.

DCEP’s Emma Morgan said she was initially unsure how long it would take for 100 people to sign on, but after a series of workshops, the level of interest soon became clear.

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“We have been collating survey data from our community in-formation nights and we can now see how much consumers want this change,” she said.

The project is expected to pump out 6.5MW at peak times, equating to about 9.5 gigawatt hours a year, and is projected to displace about 7kt of carbon emissions a year and ease pressure on the strained grid.

The model is promoted as a way of making sustainable energy consumption accessible, providing up to 90 per cent of households’ needs while removing the need to pay for equipment repairs and upgrades.

This week, financial backer SUSI closed its first investment in Australia — a 34MW solar PV plant in Middlemount, Queensland.

With a presence now on each coast, the group is keen to extend its reach.

“We have just acquired our first project in Australia and we are looking to expand our local presence with further investments in the region,” SUSI Partners AG vice-president Matteo Zanni said.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to structure this project, enabling a scalable model in which communities take an active role in reducing their carbon footprints and obtain economic benefits in doing so.”

Project partner Redback Energy will provide the inverters, services and software, and will also donate $250 from every installation to a community fund.

The community fund will soon tally $25,000 and could go as high as $250,000 if the project hits its maximum of 1000 sign-ups.

Redback Energy managing director Brian Innes said he was encouraged by the level of support in Dunsborough.

“We hope that this is just the beginning of a movement that will rapidly bring us all cleaner, cheaper and more reliable energy,” he said.

Installations are expected to begin in January and the formal contract event will take place on December 8 from 2-4pm at the Naturaliste Community Centre.

Ms Morgan said new sign-ons were also welcome to attend.

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