State Coal Mine Wonthaggi adding “New Energy” to Old

Media Release courtesy of the Energy Innovation Co-op


Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio has announced a grant of up to $241,840 over three years, to the Energy Innovation Co-op’s “Old Energy-New Energy” project at the State Coal Mine Wonthaggi.

The “Old Energy-New Energy” idea was initiated by volunteers and supporters of the State Coal Mine Wonthaggi, who wanted to find ways to improve both the environmental and financial viability of the tourism venue, attracting a new wider audience to the historic precinct.

The Energy Innovation Co-operative is a local not-for-profit Co-operative that since its inception in 2009 has focussed on “working together towards a zero emissions community”. The Co-op, with a very significant funding pledge from Bass Coast Community Foundation and support from Bass Coast Shire, took up the challenge to develop a viable project. Background feasibility study work was all completed by volunteers, including pro-bono technical advice from local installers Gippsland Solar.

“We are very excited by our success with this grant, which will allow us to install such a large solar and battery array locally. Locals and visitors alike will be able to see in it action, reducing carbon emissions by more than 150,000kg annually. Getting battery technology up and running locally is especially of interest to many people. This is very exciting news”, said Energy Innovation Co-op Chair, Moragh Mackay.

This funding facilitates the first two stages of the wider plans.

At least 86 kW of ground mounted solar panels and 25 kWh of batteries will be installed at the Mine, providing green power to help pump up to 100,000 litres of water a day from the Mine as well as for the Visitor Centre and other community facilities on the site.

Income earned by the Co-op from sale of renewable power to Parks Victoria, will support the Co-op’s Southern CORE (Community Owned Renewable Energy) fund.

This perpetual revolving fund will provide funding support, mostly through no interest loans, to community groups wanting to put solar panels on community facilities across the region. Community groups get panels without needing to find all the capital up-front, the environment benefits through lower emissions and community funds stay circulating in the local area instead of going off to multi nationals.

The project also trials a partnership with Parks Victoria that the Co-op hopes to expand to other sites, and will enable the employment of a Project Technical Officer to assist with the Mine installation and other sites supported by the Southern CORE fund.

Bass Coast Shire Mayor Pamela Rothfield expressed Bass Coast Shire’s appreciation and support for the project and funding. “Council is pleased to be supporting the Energy Innovation Co-operative lead “Old Energy-New Energy” project through both a financial and in-kind contribution, looks forward to seeing the project completed, and sharing the outcomes with the community and visitors to our region,” Cr Rothfield said.

“The project is innovative and educational, and demonstrates how we can showcase our history with today’s technology. We are fortunate to have an enthusiastic and capable community group with a strong environmental focus making a positive difference to the community in which we all live.”

Simon Corbell, the Victorian Government’s Renewable Energy Advocate, toured the Wonthaggi State Coal Mine and was briefed on the project on Thursday. “This is a smart and innovative project which highlights the clean energy transition.” he said at the Mine.

“It can build community ownership of the opportunities renewable energy can deliver for towns and regions” he said.

The Energy Innovation Co-op celebrated the funding and made the local announcement at the State Coal Mine on Friday morning.

This funding is one of 21 successful projects in Round two of the Victorian Labor government’s New Energy Jobs Fund. The $20million fund, allocated over 3 rounds, assists Victorian-based new energy technology projects that create long term, sustainable jobs, drive economic development, promote community participation, increase the uptake of renewable energy generation, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, drive innovation of new energy technologies and build new energy technology capacity in the State.