Last month the town of Uralla, New South Wales, population of 2754, won a tender to be used as a model for Australia’s first Zero Net Energy Town Project. ZNET will work with the town to investigate opportunities to switch to 100% renewable energy. Some 1300 kilometres south-west, the smaller Victorian town of Newstead plans to switch to 100% solar power by 2017, a pledge backed by the Victorian Labor Party. But is 100% renewable an achievable goal for larger populations, or is it a gimmick for tiny towns that has no real-world impact?
Professor Anthony Vassallo, director of the Centre for Sustainable Energy Development at the University of Sydney, says the towns’ ambitions are achievable — with proper planning. “For towns the size of Uralla, you could envisage having enough storage to ride through the night or days of low sun.”