By Michael Doran
The Warburton Community Hydro Project was officially opened on 29 October by Eastern Metropolitan Region MP, Shaun Leane.
The former electrician said: “It’s a fantastic project, these sort of projects are the answer. I can’t congratulate enough all of the people who have made this happen.”
“Generating electricity is a really simple thing, you just have to turn a turbine quickly. The issue is how you turn the turbine and people need to come here and have a look at exactly what can be done.”
Upper Yarra Community Power Ltd. chairman, Luke Whiteside, said that the project has been a work-in-progress since 2009.
“My dad and I were playing golf here and we talked about how much water was surging down the creek through the golf course. To stand here today and see a fully-functioning power station using that water is just amazing,” he said.
As if in a Back to the Future movie, he told of how Warburton had a hydro station on this same creek back in 1918.
“It was put there to power Warburton’s street lights but technology passed it by and it closed,” he said.
“Ythan Creek never stops running so now we have a 24/7 power station spinning away in its little bunker, unseen and unheard, but making power non-stop. After nine long years it is there and it’s making real electricity that is flowing into the grid.
“If we are not going to get leadership on this issue from high levels then it’s time for us, the community, to take leadership ourselves.
“This project is a great example to so many other communities of what can be achieved if enough people get involved.
“There are so many people who have made this dream come true, especially our partners at Upper Yarra Community Enterprise, Melbourne Water, Warburton Golf Club and Yarra Ranges Council.
“The council have been a fantastic partner in this, helping us on every step along the way.”
Yarra Ranges Councillor Jim Child, said that the project was completed through collaboration between government, business and the Warburton community.
“Central to the success of the project has been the collaboration of the Warburton and Yarra Junction Community Bank branches, Yarra Ranges Council, Victorian State Government, Powershop, River Power, our local tradespeople and many local community members,” Cr Child said.
“The hydro system provides the town with a renewable energy option and a return of sustainable profits to the community.”
“I also want to pay tribute to our staff at the council, this project has involved them on so many levels. We had people involved in bio-diversity, planning, sustainability, communications and environment.”
Yarra Ranges Mayor Len Cox said: “This is a terrific project and council wants to do more like this.”
Energy retailer, Powershop, will purchase the generated electricity and the income from these sales will be managed by Upper Yarra Community Power, to repay the projects costs.
Profits from the project will go to Warburton and Yarra Junction Community Banks to be delivered to the community through the bank’s sponsorship programs.
The project has been funded with $450,000 from the Victorian Government’s New Energy Jobs Fund and $650,000 funding from UYCE, along with $100,000 in-kind support from Yarra Ranges Council and Powershop.
The unique underground structure housing the Australian built turbine ensures almost zero noise emissions from the turbine.
The station will generate a maximum of 100 kilowatts a power and reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 700 tonnes per year.