By Tyler Wright
A feasibility study on microgrids in the area to improve disaster preparedness and resilience is open to feedback from community members in Monbulk.
The survey is part of Yarra Ranges Council’s Resilient Energy Precinct Project in partnership with Monash University and Birwood Energy, with a current feasibility study determing how to power select communities during planned power outages and extreme weather events using microgrids.
Monbulk Recreation Reserve president Paul Utting lobbied for solar panels on the roof of the reserve’s pavillion, and said this project would extend community resilience to key businesses and residential properties.
“We’ve lobbied to have those solar panels on the roof to help reduce the club’s bills because we’ve got a much bigger pavilion to run now and the electricity bills are rather substantial, but also what we’re looking at doing is making it that it would be helping in an emergency situation,” Mr Utting said.
“In the storms [in 2021] we were also without power for ten days and we could have provided shower services and shelter to the community, but we were unable to do that because we didn’t have that solar backup.
“I’ve forwarded [the survey] to all members of the club and junior footy club… if we all show a need and respond positively, then they get support and get the funding that’s required.”
Energy Resilient Communities Officer at Yarra Ranges Council, Amy Gregorovich, said the microgrid study is looking at how to physically connect the Monbulk Football Pavilion and the Monbulk community link building together so that that recreation reserve becomes more energy resilient during extreme weather.
“The June storm events of 2021 impacted many of our communities across the ranges and Monbulk was one of them, with power outages lasting days to weeks for specific households and businesses in the various towns,” Ms Gregorovich said.
“We’re very conscious of the impacts of extreme weather, both storms and bushfires, can have on our communities, and we’re hearing that from residents in town that we’ve already engaged with expressing how those storm events have impacted them in the past and what that means for them being able to get an education and attend their employment duties and keep food fresh in the fridge and pay for things when ATMs are down.”
Healesville and Yarra Junction also became part of the Active Energy Precincts Project in mid-2021, with Yarra Ranges Council also able to secure funding for a feasibility study in Monbulk.
“People would really love to see community hubs being kept online and at what cost and what mix of energy; whether that’s renewables or generators, is still being worked out,” Ms Gregorovich said.
“People from our workshops that we ran in late November and early December in Yarra Junction and Healesville, the local communities would love to see an operational model of a microgrid that supports community ownership participation.”
A lot of the survey respondents in Healesville and Yarra Junction already had solar or were looking at installing solar on their own properties, but we’re keen to see or keen to be involved in community projects at that larger scale that support their neighbours and their friends and families in the same town.”
The survey will require residents and business owners to provide an identification number, and will ask questions around if locals have solar or batteries, or if they will choose to use them in the future, and the impacts of rising energy costs.
This information will then be fed into a microgrid feasibility study.
The microgrid survey will be open until Friday 31 March, with community members able to access it via https://shaping.yarraranges.vic.gov.au/resilient-energy-precinct-project-monbulk
For more information, to access the survey and sign up for updates, people are advised to call Council’s Sustainable Environment and Facilities Team on 1300 368 333.
The Resilient Energy Precinct Project is expected to run until 2024.