While large-scale renewable energy projects and roof-top solar installations are taking off right across the country, Orange is largely missing out on the economic, and environmental benefits that come with such investments.
Nationally, there is a construction boom of projects totalling 14,841 megawatts, worth $24.5 billion and creating 13,233 jobs.
Locally, the emphasis up to now has been on roof-top solar installations, with 15 per cent of households in Orange having solar panels. This compares unfavourably with neighbouring cities of Bathurst with 21 per cent and Dubbo (36 per cent).
Members will have access to the energy generated and battery stored equal to their shareholding.
The main economic benefits of roof-top solar to households occur when occupants are able to maximise the use of their own generated energy during sunlight hours, like dishwashers, washing machines, airconditioning, which can be challenging for many working families. Excess energy can then be fed into the grid.
By restricting the amount of energy consumed in the evening, the household's dependence on grid-supplied energy is greatly reduced, which has benefits for the grid network as a whole.
However, one of the main opportunities yet to be fully embraced by households and small businesses, is through the benefits of on-site battery energy storage systems, enabling excess energy to be stored and then used in the evening or when solar production is reduced on cloudy days.
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Battery storage systems are themselves undergoing a technical revolution with greatly increased efficiencies and reduced capital costs.
Unfortunately, up to 50 per cent of households and most small businesses are unable to install roof-top solar due either to unsuitable roof orientation, roof space or the property being a rented or leased.
With these thoughts in mind, it is easier to understand how a large-scale solar project such as the proposed Orange Renewable Energy Co-operative, combining both energy production and battery storage, can maximise opportunities for householders and small businesses to join forces as members of a locally-funded, -owned and -managed energy co-operative.
A development application has yet to be lodged with Orange City Council, but if successful, members will have access to the energy generated and battery stored equal to their shareholding of solar PV panels and battery capacity, and the returns from energy fed into and purchased from the co-op on by the grid.
The proposed co-operative will consist of five megawatts of solar generation and 10 magawatt hours of battery storage, creating up to 2,000 hours of share parcels of 2.5 kilowatts and five kilowatt hours each, at a cost of between $6000 and $8000 per share parcel.