Renewables drive to back emissions cut

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times

The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River wants to increase its capacity for renewable energy, with plans floated for a possible solar farm on Tanah Marah Road.

The same week the Shire released its draft climate action plan for public feedback — which replaces the Local Energy Action Plan with ambitious new targets for Shire and community emissions — it also tabled findings of a review into growing its stock of photovoltaic technology.

The Shire already boasts 104kW in existing solar cells at the recreation centre, Margaret River library and Augusta civic centre.

Last week, the council endorsed adding 20kW capacity to the Shire depot and spending $160,000 next financial year for 100kW equipment on the Shire offices.

The final vision for the Shire offices included a consultant’s report identifying problems with space and roof materials which could limit capacity, or require additional engineering works.

After last week’s council decision, officers would also investigate future solar capacity for the Heart venue in 2021-22.

However, plans for solar panels at the recreation centre carpark looked unfeasible.

The Times understands the Tanah Marah Road proposal would help address additional, costly regulatory requirements for solar projects greater than 100kW by bundling PV cell increases into one location.

More renewable-energy projects were a “priority project” in the Shire’s latest corporate plan to meet emissions targets and also reduce power costs, with PV offsetting about 5 per cent of Shire emissions so far.

“The draft climate action plan seeks to offset 50 per cent of the Shire (emissions) ... by 2030,” it said.

“A significant uptake in solar PV installation is required as a means of reaching this target.”

Last week’s approved items would increase the Shire’s emissions offset to 12 per cent, but a big project was needed to meet the ambitious new 50 per cent target.

The Shire would consider delivering the solar farm through the private sector, receiving discounted power in exchange for a peppercorn lease, with residents able to buy green power as well.

But the Augusta-Margaret River Clean Community Energy project earmarked for Scott River could also deliver the reductions.

The report also noted solar batteries did “not provide an attractive return on investment”.

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