The community-owned co-operative Hepburn Wind has submitted its planning permit to build a solar farm with battery storage next to the existing wind turbines, on Leonards Hill.

Should the planning permit be successful, the solar farm at 7.44MW will almost double the co-operatives energy generation, offsetting over 1,500 homes and making a substantial contribution to the Shire’s zero-net energy target for 2025 and zero-net emissions for 2030. The hybrid facility planning permit also allows for a future battery storage facility of 10MWh.

Not only is the co-operative seeking to grow local renewables, they are also proposing to use best practice ‘sensitive design principles’ to minimise impacts on the valuable agricultural land and to the neighbourhood.

“We have been working closely with our landowners, the Liversidge Family, to develop a proposal that will protect the high-quality agriculture landscape. For example, the solar array will be placed on the least arable area on the farm, using a technology called PEG which reduces the footprint of the solar system by over 50% and the arrays will be a mixture of east-west and north-south orientation which means we can fit the system to the natural topography,” said Taryn Lane, the General Manager of Hepburn Wind.

“The Leonards Hill site is ideal for such a development as we have the existing grid availability needed to deliver the additional power. And this would enable us to maximise utilisation of the $1.6m grid upgrade we did in 2010. By building solar at the farm, we will be making the most of this asset and be closer to our zero-net emissions target for 2030,” said Lane.

In 2019, Hepburn Z-NET released their Community Transition Plan (CTP) that looked at how the Shire could transition to zero-net emissions. One of the key recommendations was to maximise local energy generatio, through household solar and mid-scale community solar.

Having established local and international acclaim as Australia’s first community-owned wind farm, the solar farm will represent a new milestone for the co-operative. This project was made possible through a State Government grant for $500,000 under the Renewable Communities Program.

“As always, our aim is to make our community more sustainable and resilient, while growing awareness about the need to cut emissions and build clean energy. We hope that this new project will demonstrate how communities can work towards these changes.”

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