Melton Shire Council - Submission to Medium-Scale Solar
Big Roofs don’t stack up - Discussion Paper
From Melton Shire Council
On behalf of the Western Alliance for Greenhouse Action
In February 2010 the Western Alliance for Greenhouse Action received funding from the Victorian Government to undertake some work to encourage owners of large size industrial roof spaces to use these for harvesting water and energy.
Arup and CSIRO were appointed as the consultant team to develop a set of guidelines and technical workbooks to allow owners of big roofs to easily install PV technology and water harvesting technology and reap the benefits that flowed.
While the guidelines are nearing completion they may unfortunately sit idle as the project also uncovered the lack of a strong business case for the introduction of these technologies. We consider that the slow uptake of solar in this space is largely due to the lack of financial feasibility that surrounds the technology and without the introduction of financial incentives the hurdle for the large scale uptake of solar will remain.
Western Alliance for Greenhouse Action
The Western Alliance for Greenhouse Action (WAGA) is made up of eight Councils, a community environment group and a University who are committed to working together to reduce their own greenhouse emissions and those of Melbourne’s Western region.
The area encompasses the Cities of Maribyrnong, Hobsons Bay, Moonee Valley, Brimbank, Wyndham and Greater Geelong and the Shires of Melton and Moorabool. Covering some
WAGA’s mission is to ensure that our region plays its part in the global task of stabilizing climate. We intend to be among the first developed-world regions to rapidly transform its society from climate-damaging to climate friendly in a way that is simultaneously practical, profitable and transferable.
The seven original members of WAGA cover an area of three and a half thousand square kilometres to Melbourne’s west, with an approximate regional population of around 650,000. The City of Wyndham and the Shire of Melton were recently identified in a report commissioned by the Western Bulldogs Football Club and undertaken by KPMG to be the fastest growing region in Australia, surpassing the Gold Coast. Therefore with a large, and rapidly growing, population base the importance of the region in influencing Climate Change initiatives cannot be understated.
WAGA undertakes a range of projects, often led by local Government, aimed at reducing or eliminating greenhouse emissions from the region and has been strongly supported by the Victorian Government’s Vision for Werribee Plains to undertake work on renewable energy.
Big Roof Project
WAGA undertook a study across all member Council to map the largest roofs in their municipalities and identified some 14km2 of industrial roof space that could be used to harvest water and energy. To progress the work further WAGA applied to the Victorian Government for funding with the objectives of:
- Developing comprehensive guidelines for rooftop energy and water harvesting
- Create a successful rooftop energy and water harvesting demonstration project in partnership with commercial and/or industrial partnership in Melbourne’s west
- Organise a seminar/launch event where the owners of large roofs in the west can be briefed on the benefits of harvesting water and energy
Importantly it should be noted that the funding application stated that “the costs of applying the technology will be borne by the participating industries.”
The project was a partnership between the member Councils and also the water authorities in the region, City West Water and Western Water.
The project initially sought to develop the guidelines which would be used as the basis for both the demonstration project and the seminar. The draft set of guidelines were completed around July 2010 and contain three documents. The first is a user friendly set of guidelines that give a short but detailed overview of both the technology and regulatory regime surrounding PV and water harvesting. There are also two technical documents which detail further the technologies and regulations surrounding the issue.
During the development of the guidelines the consultants were also charged with the task of seeking a partner organisation to undertake a project in the installation of solar technology and water harvesting. A number of large organisations were targeted and many of these were owners of large industrial complexes.
The aim of the demonstration project was to show how ‘easily’ this could be done and to encourage other big roof owners to undertake similar projects.
The majority of the installations that have been considered are of a considerable size and would cost in excess of $400,000. Throughout the development of the guidelines and in dealing with businesses the issue that kept coming up was that without significant financial support through government the business case for the installation of solar did not stake up.
Many companies with large roof spaces are also large energy users and the amount of power generated would only be sufficient to offset a small amount of their energy use and therefore through negotiation with energy providers the discounts they received negate the imperative to use alternative energy.
The other issue that restricted the business case was the lack of any financial incentives for medium scale solar installations. WAGA is generally supportive of many financial incentives including: medium scale premium fee in tariff; power purchase agreements; and certificate schemes. Businesses could really only use the power generated on-site as there is no benefit in feeding extra power back into the grid. For smaller users of power the cost offset by a medium scale installation does not warrant the overall expense of the installation.
As stated the difficulties surrounding the business case meant that a demonstration project was not pursued. However, WAGA believes that had a demonstration project gone ahead the significant physical, procedural and administrative barriers that are experienced by some renewable energy projects would have arisen.
The Big Roof project is entering the final stage where all the issues that have been identified through the initial development of the guidelines will be developed into a document that can be presented to relevant stakeholders. This document could form the basis of the issues of the medium scale solar working group and assist with furthering the uptake of solar across Victoria.
With the recent move in the urban growth boundary the strong growth in Western Melbourne will continue for many years to come. The development of industrial buildings with large roof spaces will also continue and these spaces really provide a significant opportunity to harvest renewable energy and water for use either on-site or within the local community.
Currently there are barriers to organisations installing technology as the business case for solar does not stack up. We believe with financial incentives this could be overcome and a vast new industry opened up.