It is January 2019, and much of South Australia and Victoria was baking, with maximum temperatures in the low 40s (Celsius). Adelaide hit 46.6°C and Melbourne was not far behind. In between is the tiny rural town of Avenel. Then came the blackout. Twenty six hours without power — medicine spoiled, fridges and freezers stopped working, and even the swimming pool was closed.
Around 114 km north of Melbourne, Avenel is located in the Shire of Strathbogie. Residents aged 65 years and over make up over 20% of the population. A number of these elderly residents suffered heat stress. It was this that prompted a proposal for a solar and battery powered air-conditioned heat refuge to be established in the town. This was strongly supported by the town council.
“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,” said Jeff Moran, past president of the town’s community action group, Avenel Active.
The building selected to host the heat refuge was Avenel Memorial Hall. The heat refuge is powered by solar panels and includes a Fronius Gen24 Plus hybrid inverter and a BYD battery system. Total cost: $29,000.
Strathbogie Shire Mayor Councillor Laura Binks says as well as helping to assist in any future heat crisis, the solar battery hub will also lower annual energy costs for the Hall and the Avenel Pool, which are both on the same meter. Avenel already has more than 237 small-scale systems boasting a collective capacity of 1.25MW installed to date.
The future of energy is decentralised energy systems reducing dependency on the grid. Local residents 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.
More power to them I say.
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