The town of Uralla in the New England region of northern NSW is set to become the state's first zero net energy town (ZNET) after winning the selection process for an ambitious project to take an entire rural community completely off grid.
Uralla was chosen by the ZNET Consortium to be the first town for the ZNET Initiative, following a near half-year selection process which involved a call for tenders from service providers for the development of a blueprint and business plan for the project.
It could become the first zero net energy town in Australia.
The ZNET Consortium is comprised of a group of research and government bodies, including the Regional Clean Energy Program of the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage, NSW Trade & Investment, the Institute for Rural Futures at the University of New England, and the Office of Adam Marshall, Member for Northern Tablelands.
Uralla beat out four other towns in New England that made the final shortlist for the ZNET Initiative, including Walcha, Manilla, Tenterfield and Bingara.
According to Parliamentary Secretary for Renewable Energy Leslie Williams, Uralla won the tight competition because of widespread grassroots support for renewable energy in the community.
“Uralla was successful because of its very strong support from the community, local business and local residents, but importantly the local government sector,” said Williams.
Uralla has already made impressive strides to reduce its dependence upon power from the grid, using solar energy for aged care facilities and the town swimming pool.
Widespread community support for renewable energy is also firmly evidenced by the popularity of solar panels on the town’s homes and businesses.
Following selection for the ZNET Project, Uralla will be the beneficiary of $105,000 in funding from the Office of Environment of Heritage. That money will go toward a feasibility study to determine the best combination of solar and wind power for Uralla as well as potential means of delivery.
Michael Pearce, the Uralla Shire Mayor, expects the project to be completed over a seven to 10 year time frame, with a likely emphasis on wind energy due to the town’s frequent gusty weather.
Uralla joins a slew of other rural communities in eastern Australia with ambitions to convert to 100 per cent usage of renewable energy. These include Lismore in the north-east of NSW, as well as the towns of Yackandandah and Newstead in Victoria.