Katanning Energy installs first independent solar system at Katanning Environmental Container Cash In shed

Headshot of Sean Van Der Wielen
Sean Van Der WielenGreat Southern Herald
Katanning Environmental chairman Matt Collis and Katanning Energy chairman Geoff Stade stand next to the inverter and battery system at the Katanning Containers for Change facility.
Camera IconKatanning Environmental chairman Matt Collis and Katanning Energy chairman Geoff Stade stand next to the inverter and battery system at the Katanning Containers for Change facility. Credit: Sean Van Der Wielen/Great Southern Herald

A Katanning not-for-profit group has made the switch to running on 100 per cent renewable energy, marking a significant step forward in a plan to make the town more energy-independent.

The Katanning Environmental Container Cash In facility on Dore Street is now home to a solar standalone electricity system — the first of its kind installed by community-owned business Katanning Energy.

Katanning Energy is working towards a plan to supply the town with more renewable and reliable energy solutions.

Last year the business began studying the feasibility of a community-based energy storage system that would allow energy generated from community-owned renewable resources in Katanning to be stored and redistributed.

The new Katanning Environmental system, installed in early May, comprises of an eight kilowatt solar panel array backed by a 10kW battery.

Katanning Environmental chairman Matt Collis said the system now supplied the complete power needs of the facility, which has processed more than 4.7 million containers since it began operating in October 2020.

He said the system had brought forward the organisation’s adoption of renewable energy.

“The prime goal was to get power, but if we can do it in an environmentally friendly way then that adds to it,” Mr Collis said.

It is a major upgrade for the facility, which previously did not have any permanent electricity supply due to it being isolated from the electricity grid.

Prior to the installation, the organisation had been using a generator to power the containers for cash donation site.

“It is a noisy environment at the best of times when we are counting,” Mr Collis said.

“One of the best outcomes has been when we do get those quiet moments, we haven’t got the noise of a generator running in the background.

“The generator was fairly small so you could run the air-conditioning and the computer but then you couldn’t run a kettle at the same time, so it has made life nicer.”

Mr Collis estimated the organisation was saving around 20 litres of unleaded fuel each week thanks to the new set-up.

Katanning Energy chairman Geoff Stade said the system was designed flexibly so it could be scaled to the group’s needs.

“As the needs of the Katanning Environmental shed increase, so too can the power production,” he said.

The project is one of 20 which have now been completed by Katanning Energy, as part of their push to make the town energy self-sufficient, with 90 more in the pipeline.

Mr Stade said the organisation, which he described as a “private company with a community focus”, had first come about after receiving a shock at the electricity bill of the Katanning Co-Op when it reopened in 2018.

“I rang a friend over in Melbourne who had been in the industry for a long time and he had recently visited Katanning and thought bigger than what I was thinking with getting power on to the Co-Op went,” he said.

“Rather than put panels onto one business, put panels on to several places and begin to make the town self-sufficient for power.”

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