Licola goes off diesel and switches on solar to make the town's power source totally renewable

Licola has turned off its diesel generators and switched to solar power with battery storage. Photo: Beth Harris
Licola has turned off its diesel generators and switched to solar power with battery storage. Photo: Beth Harris

LICOLA has turned off diesel and switched on solar to make the town's power source totally renewable, in a project partly-funded and backed by the Latrobe Community Power Hub.

Lions Licola Wilderness Village went off the grid for its 50th anniversary, celebrated last week, which will save $135,000 a year running and maintaining noisy generators.

Wilderness Village chief executive Tony Davis said the project would turn Licola into a sustainable tourist destination, as well as a drawcard for people wanting to learn about off-grid communities.

"Sustainability and renewable energy is the way forward - the ability to switch off our generators with the large carbon footprint is important," Mr Davis said.

The diesel generators had been deployed full-time to power the village day and night, powering Licola's 270-bed wilderness village, general store, caravan park and CFA shed.

The village, which receives 20 per cent more sunshine than Melbourne, is also used as a hub for emergency service crews during bushfires.

"This will give us the ability to cut the generator noise out," Mr Davis said.

"When they are turned off it's blissful - you can hear the birds and the river."

The $800,000 set-up includes a total solar capacity of 167 kilowatts, with 35-tonne batteries providing 100 kilowatt hours.

Part of the design also included making the entire town more energy efficient by replacing old wall heaters with split systems and installing LED lights.

The project is being funded by the Lions Club, with a partial amount kicked in from the Latrobe Community Power Hub, using inverters manufactured in Melbourne and local contractors. Mr Davis expects the project will pay for itself in between six to eight years, and the cash saved on diesel will be put back into running camps for disadvantaged kids.

However, he said the generators would still be kept handy for an extra boost for an hour or so during peak demand when the town is full with visitors on long weekends and holidays.

Latrobe Community Power Hub project officer Chris Barfoot said it was a "vital" project that would be used as an example of how to establish a totally off-grid system.

"This scheme will provide real-time information on the internet so anyone can study it," he said.

"People will be able to learn from it, and we want this knowledge to be available to everyone.

"There is also a large argument that remote communities are better off-grid, as then distribution companies don't have to maintain the powerlines."