THE roof of the Bega library is sporting a new look this week.
On Friday, a network of solar panels was installed as part of a project that will see considerable savings for the Bega Valley Shire Council and, in turn, ratepayers.
In a first for regional NSW, Essential Energy is constructing an “intelligent” solar energy system, which will showcase the benefits of community-based renewable energy solutions and effectively make the library self-sufficient in regards to its electricity consumption.
According to Essen-tial’s regional general manager south eastern, Phillip Green, who was on hand to launch the project with Member for Bega Andrew Constance, the library’s system is the third phase of the energy company’s “Intelligent Network”.
The Intelligent Network (IN) trials started in Bega 12 months ago, with households invited to help inform a national approach to automated and intuitive electricity systems.
The project married information technology to the electricity network through the use of in-home displays and meters, power line sensors, remote switches and other automated equipment.
One year later, the IN now also includes LED street lights along Carp St and the new solar power system in the library.
“Essential has been very active in the Bega Valley,” Mr Green said on Friday.
“The LED lighting along Carp St is not used anywhere else in Essential’s network.
“They use 65 per cent less power than other street lights and in fact are 40 per cent brighter as well.”
At the library to see some of the 108 solar panels being set up, Mr Constance said the unique attributes of the system will combine to test a viable alternative energy solution for neighbourhood and rural village communities.
“Over the past few years we’ve seen a lot of interest and investment in both larger-scale commercial and individual home solar generation in NSW, but, until now, no-one has focused on its use in providing low-cost, clean energy for community assets or small population clusters,” Mr Constance said.
“Essential Energy and its project partners, Bega Valley Shire Council and LJW Solar – one of the oldest solar companies in Australia – are to be congratulated on this forward-thinking initiative.”
The common drawback to solar energy is that it can only be generated when the sun is shining - and most people aren’t at home during the daytime to use that electricity.
“However, this is not just solar panels on a roof,” Mr Constance said.
“The battery banking component is particularly exciting.
“This system is unique – it not only generates renewable energy for use during the day, but it can also store some energy in battery banks for later use, or during a supply interruption – effectively making the Bega library energy self-sufficient.
“And the stored energy can also be fed back into the network at peak demand times – say, at night when people come home and cook dinner, watch television or play computer games, or use their hot water systems for things like showers and washing up,” Mr Constance said.
“The battery banks can also be configured to be charged from the network, creating a micro-grid.”
Once the system installation is complete, a kiosk will be set up in the Bega library to show visitors the system’s energy generation and flow and practical demonstrations of the system’s storage capabilities.
Essential Energy and LJW Solar will offer educational information and seminars to showcase the system, its features, the benefits of solar energy monitoring and control and its potential as an integral part of intelligent and sustainable electricity networks of the future.
“In future, renewable energy systems of this kind will offer a more cost-effective and sustainable energy solution for neighbourhood communities, and improve power supply quality in rural areas,” Mr Constance said.
“There’s been a big community call throughout the Bega Valley for clean energy.
“Now we have a project that’s incredibly exciting and the first of many across the south-east,” he said.
“It’s a forward-thinking approach.
“That it will show the benefits of larger-scale renewable energy projects is what’s particularly pleasing about this initiative.
“We will be reaping enormous benefits for decades.”