The history of Upper Yarra Community Power
The Upper Yarra Valley is naturally wet and steep. This makes for good, interesting walks, beautiful scenery and amazing potential for renewable hydropower.
Inspired by a long history (over 100 years) of hydro electricity in the town, a group of Warburton locals had been steadily working towards their own clean, green power station on the Ythan Creek, for the past nine years.
Funding of $450,000 was acquired through the State Government’s New Energy Jobs Fund and auspiced by Yarra Ranges Council in 2017. A further $450,000 loan to UYCP from Bendigo Bank was undertaken to fund the project. The final costs for the project were approximately $1.3M. It was completed in 2018.
The power station is small, and required no invasive infrastructure such as dams and is completely owned by the community, with revenue from the electricity sold directed back into the Upper Yarra Region through Upper Yarra Community Enterprise.
WARBURTON COMMUNITY HYDRO FAQs
1. How does it work?
Some of the water is taken from Ythan Creek and piped nearly 900 metres underground and downhill to a small earth covered building containing a turbine and generator. The water pushes against the turbine that turns the generator. The water is then returned to Ythan Creek. The power generated is fed into the local electricity grid via an underground cable from the power-house to a pole and transformer in the Warburton Golf Club car park.
2. How much power will get generated?
The 100 kW turbine has the capacity to generate enough power for approximately 150 homes. This is an indicative figure only with power fed back into the grid. The actual amount of power generated is solely dependent upon water flow within the Ythan Creek.
3. Who is involved?
This is a community project owned by Upper Yarra Community Enterprise Ltd, who operate the Warburton and Yarra Junction Community Banks, and is supported by The Warburton Golf Club, Yarra Ranges Council and Meridian Energy (Powershop).
4. Has Planning Permission been granted?
Planning Permission was granted through a process with Yarra Ranges Council and Melbourne Water.
5. How much water will be left in Ythan Creek?
Melbourne Water has been involved in the project since its inception and require a minimum environmental flow of 30 litres per second between the off take structure at the north of the golf course and the tailrace where the water is returned. There will be frequent fresh flows moving through the creek at rates much higher than Melbourne Water’s minimum requirement.
6. How will water quality be monitored?
Baseline data for dissolved oxygen, turbidity, sedimentation and algae were established prior to construction and are being monitored during operation. The control systems have the ability to increase environmental flows in the unlikely event of a deterioration in water quality.
7. What about fish in the creek?
There are 2 species of fish known to live in Ythan Creek –the Mountain Galaxias (a small native fish living in the lower reaches) and the Brown Trout (an exotic/introduced species). The fast moving water and a number of fish barriers (culverts) along the creek already limit the movement of fish as does an existing small weir built close to the old reservoir north of the golf course.
8. What about the Platypus?
Platypus are known to frequent or forage for invertebrates in Ythan Creek but spend most of their time in the Yarra River. Platypuses are a mobile species and are able to adapt to changes in water levels.
9. What will the powerhouse look like?
The powerhouse blends into the surrounds of the adjacent golf course green and tee, and features a grassed roof.
10. Will it be noisy?
The sound of the water hitting the turbine creates some noise but this is absorbed by the heavy concrete construction, the earth covered roof and the Earth Berm (long mound) to the south of the power-house. The existing dominant sound of water running along the creek between the powerhouse and the Yarra River continues.
11. What is the benefit to the Golf Club?
Upper Yarra Community Enterprise Ltd has entered into a lease arrangement and ongoing maintenance program with the Golf Club.
12. What is the benefit to the Warburton Community?
Upper Yarra Community Power Ltd will receive income by selling the power generated. Once the construction, loan and plant costs are paid, any profits will be dispersed back to Upper Yarra Community Enterprise, as the sole beneficiary.
13. Who is paying for the costs of Construction and Plant?
After the New Energy Jobs Fund Grant of $450K and loan of $450K Upper Yarra Community Enterprise Ltd contributed an additional approximately $400K to the project.
14. What is the role of Yarra Ranges Council?
Council is supportive of Community Renewable Energy and is supporting a number of groups and projects in Yarra Ranges. A request was made to Council in June 2016 to support the project and to seek government funding and provided ongoing support through the construction of the project.
15. Who is Powershop and what is their role?
Powershop are an electricity retailer that believes community energy is going to play a big role in our transition to a cleaner energy future. That’s why in 2016 they launched a partnership with Hepburn Wind, Australia’s first community owned wind farm. They’re backed by Meridian Energy, Australasia’s largest renewable energy generator and have been ranked Australia’s greenest power company by the Greenpeace Green Electricity Guide (2014 & 2015). Now they’re thrilled to partner with the Upper Yarra Community Power (UYCP) in the delivery of the Warburton Hydro Project. Powershop worked behind the scenes providing support to accelerate the project and achieve a more efficient cost effective connection arrangement. They were also excited to bring the Upper Yarra community a great deal on electricity. Anyone wishing to switch from their existing retailer to Powershop via the UYCE campaign will receive a $100 credit once their switch is complete. More information can be found via the following link www.powershop.com.au/uyce
The original turbine and housing on the Golf Course before removal
Announcement of funding from the New Energy Fund
Work in progress on the new mini hydro
Opening of the Warburton Mini Hydro
Hydro inside and outside
Video courtesy of River Power Tasmania