Strathbogie Shire Council

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Solar battery heat refuge in Avenel

Avenel residents needing support during a heatwave with extended power outages now have a solar-powered heat refuge in the heart of town.

Solar panels and a recently commissioned solar battery hub at Avenel Memorial Hall mean vulnerable community members will have an instantaneous heat refuge when the electrical grid is overloaded.

The $29,000 solar project was driven by Avenel Active, the town’s community action group, via Strathbogie Shire Council’s innovative 2021 Pitch My Project initiative.

Avenel Active’s immediate past president Jeff Moran said many elderly residents suffered heat stress during a 26-hour power outage two summers ago, prompting the solar battery hub proposal.

“Many Avenel residents were unable to access air-conditioning or refrigerators to keep food fresh,” Mr Moran said.

“Many were stressed by the heat and had nowhere to go − other than Nagambie or Seymour to a supermarket − to seek refuge from the heat.

“It became clear that there was a need for a heat refuge in Avenel in this climate-enhanced environment to enable people to seek shelter when the power is unavailable for extended periods.”

Mr Moran is a member of Avenel Active’s sub-group, Renewable Avenel Energy (RAE), which prepared the Avenel Solar Battery Heat Refuge proposal for the Pitch My Project submission.

The solar battery hub will ensure an instant response in a heat and power emergency, instead of waiting for the installation of an in-demand diesel generator, which would create fumes and noise.

Strathbogie Shire Mayor Councillor Laura Binks said Council was excited to support Avenel Active’s solar battery heat refuge initiative.

“It’s reassuring to know the health of vulnerable people can be instantly supported at the hall during a heat and power emergency because it has a stand-alone solar battery hub,” Cr Binks said.

“An air-conditioned venue with seating, tables, kitchen and fridges will provide critical relief as well as a central venue to gather, be supported and entertained.”

Cr Binks congratulated Avenel Active on its solar-hub initiative to provide emergency and long-term benefits for the community.

“While the community is prepared for any future heat crisis, the solar battery hub will also lower annual energy costs at the facility and the Avenel Pool, which are both on the same meter,” she said.

Mr Moran said the Memorial Hall project was part of the group’s bigger vision of making Avenel an off-grid solar hub.

“It’s a significant step in showing residents an example of what we are hoping to achieve throughout Avenel,” he said.

“The future of energy is de-centralising energy systems which aren’t dependent on the grid.

“We are really keen to make Avenel a stand-alone mini-grid, with enough solar and battery power to be self-contained and be shared around the community.”

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