Power flow­ing back to the peo­ple

NORTHAM So­lar Farm is sched­uled to open mid- year in a ‘ part­ner­ship first’ be­tween Perth Noon­gar Foun­da­tion, In­dige­nous Busi­ness Aus­tralia and Carnegie Clean En­ergy. Carnegie chief ex­ec­u­tive Michael Ot­ta­viano says the model is a po­ten­tial game changer fo

Avon Valley Gazette - - NEWS -

IF all goes ac­cord­ing to plan, the 10MW so­lar farm in Northam will be a tem­plate for lo­cal peo­ple and in­dus­try to utilise a re­new­able re­source in a fu­ture where ev­ery­one is a win­ner.

Carnegie Clean En­ergy re­tains a 50 per cent stake in a deal with co- eq­uity in­vestors In­dige­nous Busi­ness Aus­tralia ( IBA) and the Perth Noon­gar Foun­da­tion to de­liver elec­tric­ity to about 3000 house­holds through­out the 25- year project.

Carnegie chief ex­ec­u­tive and manag­ing di­rec­tor Michael Ot­ta­viano is hope­ful that where his com­pany leads, oth­ers will fol­low.

“What we’re re­ally do­ing is tak­ing en­gage­ment a step fur­ther and rather than just en­gag­ing the com­mu­nity at our whim, it’s about get­ting in­dige­nous peo­ple around the ta­ble to own and co- own projects; that’s never been done be­fore,” he said.

“I think Northam could be a tem­plate for other com­pa­nies to adopt in the sense that this is a way of not just com­mu­nity en­gage­ment where it’s the com­pany com­ing in and dic­tat­ing all terms, this is about work­ing di­rectly with the lo­cal com­mu­nity and with in­dige­nous cap­i­tal and own­ers to col­lec­tively drive change in th­ese com­mu­ni­ties.”

The re­new­able en­ergy project is break­ing new ground for Carnegie and its in­dige­nous part­ners.

“Part of our part­ner­ship agree­ment with IBA and the Perth Noon­gar Foun­da­tion talks about a whole range of re­quire­ments and obli­ga­tions and part of that is en­gag­ing and em­ploy­ing in­dige­nous peo­ple, con­trac­tors and busi­nesses,” he said.

“It’s a po­ten­tial game changer; if you can give in­dige­nous peo­ple eq­uity in th­ese projects then you’re cre­at­ing an in­come stream for th­ese groups, in this case for at least 25 years.”

Dr Ot­ta­viano said peo­ple in Northam em­braced the idea of a so­lar farm in their neigh­bour­hood.

About 30 peo­ple will be em­ployed dur­ing the con­struc­tion phase, mostly elec­tri­cians and me­chan­i­cal fit­ters.

“So­lar farms don’t need much in the way of main­te­nance and you don’t even have to clean the pan­els,” he said.

“The de­sign el­e­ment is be­ing done at our Bel­mont HQ; it’s this sort of project that keeps us here in WA, where we’re the big­gest re­new­able en­ergy em­ployer.”

Carnegie is also on track to build the first mi­cro­grid in WA for the naval base on Gar­den Is­land. The clean en­ergy provider spe­cialises in stand­alone so­lar projects, wave en­ergy and hy­brid – a com­plex en­ergy mix, which Dr Ot­ta­viano said was where the world was go­ing.

“Glob­ally now we’re see­ing projects ap­proach­ing 500MW and 1000MW farms, which are re­ally ex­tra­or­di­nary and in­cred­i­bly dis­rup­tive for the power sec­tion,” he said.

We sort of re­vert back to what is safe and con­ser­va­tive and easy, which is dig up the coal and gas and burn it. Mike Ot­ta­viano

“To put it into per­spec­tive, a typ­i­cal coal power sta­tion might be be­tween 200MW and 500MW and now we’re see­ing so­lar plants at that or­der of mag­ni­tude.”

He said un­like other states, WA and NSW did not have re­new­able en­ergy tar­gets at a time when more con­sumers were putting so­lar pan­els on their roof to gen­er­ate their own power.

“Aus­tralia has gone from hav­ing no rooftop so­lar os­ten­si­bly five years ago to hav­ing more rooftop so­lar per capita than any coun­try in the world,” he said.

“We’ve got the best com­bi­na­tion of so­lar, wind and wave; re­ally we should be lead­ing the world. Aus­tralia tends to be a tech­nol­ogy taker rather than a tech­nol­ogy maker, which is a shame be­cause we’ve got great en­gi­neer­ing skills and the world’s best re­new­able re­sources, but we con­sis­tently fail to see it as an op­por­tu­nity.

“We sort of re­vert back to what is safe and con­ser­va­tive and easy, which is dig up the coal and gas and burn it.”

An artist’s im­pres­sion of Northam So­lar Farm.

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