Safe refuge in our community when natural disaster strikes, to be powered by renewable energy
The Kiewa Valley was thankfully spared from major impact during the 2019-20 bushfires, but we all saw the devastating impacts on other communities in North East Victoria. Parts of the nearby Upper Murray experienced power outages of up to three weeks.
The risk of potential power outages due to bushfires exists across much of North East Victoria where the threat of bushfires is significant. Communities such as the Upper Kiewa sit on the edge of the electricity grid at the end of long valleys and electricity feeder lines. This makes it hard to find and fix faults in the line and makes areas prone to bushfire threats and short and long outages.
The TREK committee realised that our local Neighbourhood Safer Place facilities would struggle to adequately support our local community in the event of an extended power outage in our valley. A secure electricity supply during an emergency event is vital to evacuees including cooking, lighting, air conditioning, hot showers, device charging and other services, as well as supply external and essential services including the CWA, Red Cross, Police and Ambulance.
To improve our community resilience, and in line with our goal to support the community’s transition to renewables, TREK pursued funding to add a 23.1 kW solar panel array, a 33kWh solar battery (providing 3 days of off-grid autonomy on even the cloudiest or smokiest of days) and a three-phase auto start diesel generator to our Mount Beauty Sports Stadium, which is our designated Neighbourhood Safer Place (Bushfire Place of Last Resort). The backup power installation will also support community use of the Stadium during non-emergency times.
We obtained letters of support for our project from the Alpine Community Recovery Committee, the Alpine Shire Council, Dr Helen Haines MP, the Mount Beauty CFA, Mount Beauty and District Chamber of Commerce Inc, the Upper Kiewa Valley Lions Club, the Mount Beauty Neighbourhood Centre Inc, the Rotary Club of Mount Beauty, Indigo Power and Mondo Energy Pty Ltd.
Much to our delight, we were successful in our bid for $203k of federal funding from the Black Summer Bushfire Recovery Grants Program. Our grant approval was received in February 2022, and we have recently been working with the Alpine Shire Council, who own the building, to get this project underway.
Moving though the grant process and understanding Council processes and timeframes has been a great learning experience. The funding has now been released and a project steering group has been formed. We are keen to get this project completed before the next bushfire season, but the tender process may push out our preferred timeframes. Regardless of when it’s completed, this will greatly improve the Kiewa Valley’s community resilience during a crisis.