It’s tempting to get carried away with big things in the energy world. In Australia we have big batteries (Hornsdale Power Reserve, which exists), big solar (Tennant Creek, a 10GW plant that looks OK on paper so far) and big wind (Star of the South, 2GW of offshore propellers still very far over the horizon).

At a smaller scale the real energy transition is happening on rooftops, with residential PV systems slowly pushing aside reliance on coal and gas.

That leaves all sorts of opportunity in the middle, which is where the NSW Government is hoping to get the best value for the $15 million in grants for regional community energy projects it announced in early March.

The money comes from the state’s Regional Community Energy Fund, which is in turn funded by the $1.4 billion NSW Climate Change Fund. It will unlock almost 17.2MW in electricity generation and up to 17.9MW/39.3MWh of energy storage, the government reckons, from an interesting array of clean energy projects. The idea is to help make electricity more affordable and reliable for regional communities, and the projects reflect the mission statement.

About $36 million in financing is expected to be raised from private sources.

Among the projects is the Manilla Solar Project, which will use a hybrid battery storage system called H2Store, developed in the UNSW School of Chemical Engineering. Solid state hydrogen technology will be installed to store hydrogen in 20-foot containers with an energy density of 17MWh. This will be located at the community solar farm at Manilla, near Tamworth, and will be a first of this kind in the world in terms of scale.

The project is expected to provide a model for sustainable energy that can be replicated by other communities. Manilla residents are set to benefit, with the opportunity to buy solar electricity at a competitive price.

Construction will commence on the Manilla Solar Project in the latter half of 2020 and is expected to be operational early 2021. The storage component will be installed during 2021.

Other recipients of the premier state’s largesse include:

  • Byron Bay Solar Farm, with plans for 5MW of solar and 10MWh of battery storage
  • The Gloucester Community Solar Farm, with its hopes for 500kW of solar generation in Gloucester
  • The Goulburn Community Dispatchable Solar Farm, where 12MW of solar will be connected to 800kWh of battery storage
  • The Haystack Solar Garden, a Pingala project, with 1MW of PV in Grong Grong
  • The Orange Community Renewable Energy Park, with 5MW of solar and up to 5MWh of battery storage, and
  • The Shared Community Battery Scheme, operated by Enova Community Energy, with 2MWh of battery storage around regional NSW

That a lot of storage, which is great news for bringing calm to parts of the grid and enabling additional solar.