Heyfield explores microgrid option

Liz Bell

ONE of the country’s most impressive community sustainability projects will officially launch next week, with community representatives, dignitaries and energy experts gathering together to celebrate the MyTown Heyfield project.

The microgrid feasibility project, which secured $1.9 million in government funding, has cemented the town’s place as a leader in community-driven sustainability projects.

With the potential to act as a model for other regional towns, the project is now gaining the attention of communities all over Australia.

Over the next three years, the ‘MyTown’ project will determine what the best local energy solution is for the town.

This could be a microgrid, which would allow groups of homes and businesses to use, generate and share electricity among each other.

As part of the project, about 300 data collecting gadgets are being installed on meter boxes around Heyfield, gathering information from houses and businesses about energy usage.

Thanks to federal government funding and additional support from the Latrobe Valley Authority, the project is being run by the Heyfield Community Resource Centre and Australian digital energy company Wattwatchers, with help from the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology, Sydney.

Resource centre committee member Julie Bryer said the microgrid idea began with an idea to improve energy reliability and provide economic benefits for businesses and residents, and had grown into something with huge, Australia-wide implications.

“This is bigger than Ben Hur,” she said.

“Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the size of this and what it means for communities everywhere, and I think, ‘gosh, what have we started?’,” she said.

“We’ve been having meetings with ministers and energy companies, and there’s people in Sydney involved, it really has been just incredible to see it all coming together.”

The resource centre has been at the forefront of several renewable energy projects that have provided economic benefits and supported a move to clean energy.

It headed a bulk-buying solar project that has helped Heyfield and the surrounding area boast one of the highest proportions of homes and businesses with solar panels in Australia, generating about 2.5 megawatts each year; has showcased a flag system to help households and businesses assess their level of sustainability and encourage a community-wide approach to sustainability; and headed a community insulation program and an LED light program.

Ms Bryer said she was proud of the Heyfield community for getting behind the sustainability projects and embracing challenges to reduce energy costs and create a better future.

“This is really all about community, and what the community wants,” she said.

As well understanding the feasibility of a microgrid for Heyfield, the MyTown project will also develop the knowledge and tools to make it faster, easier and cheaper for other similar towns in regional Australia to do the same for their communities.

As long as COVID restrictions are relaxed next week, the launch will take place next Thursday, February 25, at Heyfield Wetlands, from 6pm.