7 May 2018

Territory Plan change to support ACT’s first trial of gas-free energy at Ginninderry

| Ian Bushnell
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The first homes in the West Belconnen development will not be connected to gas but will use solar panels to power efficient electrical heating appliances.

Comment is now open on the ACT Government’s proposed changes to the Territory plan that will allow the trial of gas-free, all-electric energy supply to Stage 1 of the Ginninderry Estate in West Belconnen.

Draft Variation 356 will make the provision of gas utility services to blocks in Stage 1 optional rather than a mandatory requirement.

The changes will allow the pilot project of about 350 homes, which will rely on electrical cooking and heating appliances powered by their own solar panels, to assess whether they are efficient and cost effective without gas, in terms of customer experience and energy use.

Minister for Planning Mick Gentleman said that for future residents, the trial would mean access to affordable housing, diverse and sustainable design and savings to energy costs.

He said that given the increasing supply and affordability of renewable energy sources, mandating the provision of gas was not consistent with the vision of the West Belconnen Structure Plan.

The proposed changes also supported the ACT Government’s commitment to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The trial would be assessed after a reasonable time period to ensure it met consumer needs and grid security requirements.

It would include testing capacity and function in a range of climate conditions, while also ensuring higher design and insulation standards were set for any future proposals.

Affordable sustainable living has been highlighted in this development with the ambitious vision to create a place underpinned by leading-edge design and development practices.

“The Ginninderry Estate Development is at the forefront of energy system design in Australia. This trial will mean higher design and insulation standards set for other developments in the ACT which will bring advances in sustainability, more affordable living and greater customer choice,” Mr Gentleman said.

Ginninderry is a joint venture of the ACT Land Development Agency (LDA) and Riverview Developments Pty Limited on behalf of Corkhill Brothers Pty Ltd.

To view the draft variation or for more information on how to have your say, visit www.planning.act.gov.au. Consultation is open until 22 June 2018.

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justin heywood9:40 pm 12 May 18

I can’t find any concrete information on the battery and pumped hydro system that will supposedly make these 350 houses an environmental win. Without these elements, ‘gas free power’ would simply mean coal fired power with some solar, and therefore nothing new.
The only certainty seems to be that the houses won’t be connected to gas. Makes for cheaper development and a nice press release, but surely they’ve got some firm plans on how it’s all going to be achieved?

wildturkeycanoe5:45 am 11 May 18

Gas is way too expensive anyway. Our first quarterly bill for gas heating in a brand new home in 2010 worked out at $4 per hour, for only 8 hours of heating a day. I ripped out the useless wall furnace which didn’t even warm any bedrooms, sold it for $400 and installed two split A/Cs. It reduced our heating costs to $1 a day for 24 hours of operation and most of the house was warm.
Gas is too expensive and it smells bad, even with flued systems. I still prefer wood over any other form of heating anyway, it really warms up the place nicely.

justin heywood9:47 pm 12 May 18

That sounds pretty cheap for 24 hour heating a Canberra house (~3kW/h)?
Could I ask what sort of a/c that is and at what temp do you keep the house?

There must be more to this – they hardly need to build 350 homes as a ‘trial’ – there are many homes in NSW and in the ACT with solar panels and no gas, why not ask them?

I for one could tell them that in the real world, in winter, even a 10kW system (like ours) might deliver around 25 kW during the day (much, much less if cloudy). By the time my family arrives home late in the afternoon, it’s not producing at all. We do have a battery (Tesla 2), but it struggles to support the cooking, solar hot water boosting, lights, computers etc for our small family overnight. We use wood for heat.

There is NO way that this system could provide heat to our house as well; it would have to all come from the grid and last I looked, is mostly coal-fired.

So let me give the planners a little free advice: in a Canberra winter, unless these houses have at least 2 Tesla batteries (~ $25000!) and the largest solar setup allowable, these houses will simply use a lot of mostly coal-fired electricity instead of gas.

Capital Retro2:08 pm 10 May 18

Jeez, don’t buy and electric car or you will really be stuffed!

Ah yes, since writing the above I see that there IS more to the story – the ‘microgrid’ will have battery and local pumped solar ‘ within its precincts’.

Sounds interesting; – anyone know the details of the pumped hydro?

Capital Retro3:48 pm 10 May 18

Yes, it runs on tax-payer funded subsidies too.

There is no suggestion they are going off the power grid.

As for your solar system may I suggest you get it checked? Mine is a 5kw system and generates about 17kw around the time of the solstice and it mostly faces west. Even on a day like today it generated 8.3kw. Your 10kw system should generate much more than you have indicated.

justin heywood10:38 pm 10 May 18

Well JC, you’d know that there are many internet forums where enthusiasts can discuss how excellent their solar setup is. I’m not worried if you reckon yours is better than mine.

My point was, even having installed a ‘Rolls Royce’ system, our battery is often flat in these winter mornings, and that is WITHOUT doing any of the heating. Your mileage may vary. But at our house, if we had electrical heating, it wouldn’t even be close to enough.

But what about the ‘microgrid’s own batteries and the ‘local’ pumped hydro system in Chewy’s link below. Anyone got more detail on that?

justin heywood10:55 pm 10 May 18

Justin = Imhotep Btw (old rarely used computer)

And my point was if your system is 10kw and only generating 25kw on a good day then there is something wrong with it. That is way way way too low. It’s not mine is bigger or better than yours. That number to me indicates a problem or the figures are presented low to support an argument.

And of course very few could, even with batteries go off grid. But again the article didn’t mention that being a goal except for being off gas. And even if paying for power at 3.7c per kw and 15c for the peak 30 minutes of each day which is what people in this area will be on it is far cheaper than gas by a long shot.

justin heywood8:06 am 12 May 18

Why would I present low figures JC. ? The fact that I have a system like that at all should tell you that I have a genuine interest in renewable energy.
As to my system output being lower than you think it should be, every solar set up has so many variables that it’s impossible to say what anyone ‘should’ be getting. This trial is looking for ‘real world’ data, which is going to be different to what a spruiker will tell you. I simply gave them mine.

History teaches me to be sceptical when governments and developers ‘get together’, especially if they’re making big green promises. It usually means that ratepayers/taxpayers are going to be stiffed. I could be wrong of course, there’s not enough information.

When my house was built I refused to have gas connected. The only use for it would have been for a couple of months a year to boost the solar hot water, and I would have had another basic fee to pay (even if I used no gas at all). Saved a lot of quarterly fees by not connecting to gas. Waste of money to have two services connected and twice the quarterly fees.

Capital Retro10:32 am 08 May 18

Wow, solar panels that work at night!

Ever heard of battery storage?

That aside the grid is a cheap source of power overnight much, cheaper than gas. And new houses now have smart meters installed which offer a different manner of calculating power bills by encouraging people to think about how they actually use power. The rate is about 15c per kw/h and double for the 30 minute window anytime during the day where maximum power is consumed.

So with a solar feed in tarif of 9c generate 20kw during a winters day cost won’t be an issue.

And that is what solar is all about helping shift how, when and where power is generated and consumed.

I personally would be happy to not have gas. The only reason we have it is because my wife prefers to use gas for cooking. I would be happy to have an electric hot water system and not have a gas supply. The way it is our major cost with gas (as we have electric heating and solar) is the supply charge.

Capital Retro10:36 am 09 May 18

There is nothing in that article about batteries and even if they are used in conjunction with solar they can only power a dedicated circuit for lighting and fridge. I looked at solar/battery and couldn’t see any value as the capital cost was way too high and the battery part was too limited.
I opted for Day & Night Off-Peak electricity for my HWS. It costs 15.466 cents per kWh and a smart meter isn’t required. Costs about $300 a year and there is always hot water.

I think gas is a no-no in the new subdivision because of the danger of igniting fugitive land fill gasses from the random garbage burials nearby.

Yeah there are no mention of batteries, that wasn’t my point. The point is there are ways to save power for use when the sun doesn’t shine at night and that solar is part of a bigger solution not the whole or only solution.

And you are right you don’t need a smart meter to be on a time of day plan but you do for the demand type of plan I was talking about where the same rate is applied 23h30 minutes a day and smart meters are what all new houses like the ones in the article will be getting.

Though it seems you are on the no gas bandwagon.

They are putting in a microgrid for the development that will include a number of different energy efficiency measures, one of which is batteries.


Capital Retro9:39 am 10 May 18

Hope they are putting in lots of fugitive LFG detectors also.

I know it sounds unreal! but with Telsa contracts with SA government and yesterday tax cuts!! anything can happen in Australia now!!

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