Energy Partnership a Win for Ripley Town Centre
Ripley Town Centre’s private community energy network is returning to the fundamentals of shared benefits for the entire community it services, just as embedded energy networks were always designed to do.
Sekisui House Australia — master developer of Ripley Town Centre in south-east Queensland’s western growth corridor — and energy partner WINConnect share a common vision to deliver a win-win for consumers within the masterplan development, in what is believed will become Queensland’s largest HV private community energy network once complete.
While the concept of embedded energy networks is not new, WINConnect Executive Chairman Tom Patsakos said Ripley Town Centre is the first ever township to commission one.
“To my knowledge, there is yet to be an entire town on a community energy network, excluding small mining towns,” he said.
“The reason it’s not common is because most developers don’t have the foresight that Sekisui House does to plan ahead. Most developers will engage a community energy network after they have already commenced construction and by that stage it’s too late.
“While embedded energy networks have over time been designed to serve the purposes of the developer, our approach is to spread the value generated from the network equitably among key stakeholders, including the community.”
The benefits associated with the private community energy network at Ripley Town Centre are far reaching, from lower tariff costs and tariff protection, to future proofing for potential advances in sustainability. Importantly, profits made through the network are invested back into the community, for example, to maintain existing infrastructure and upgrade community spaces.
Sekisui House Australia Senior Development Manager Taku Hashimoto said Ripley Town Centre is making energy more affordable for its consumers.
“Consumers that are currently taking advantage of the network are realising savings of up to 25 per cent, which may increase in time and create further savings through reduced rates and outgoings as the development grows and more sustainable solutions are realised,” he said.
“We have the ability to not only generate energy on site via our solar structures but purchase additional energy at the 11,000V bulk rate and feed that power into the network — no energy leaves the community.
“Ipswich City Council is working with us to grant permission to cross public roads in order to extend the network, which is the first time a local Council has ever been involved.”
A private energy sub-station was commissioned at Ripley Town Centre back in 2018 as part of Stage One of the masterplan to service its more than 20 retailers. The $1.5 billion masterplan vision caters to the projected growth of the region — approximately 133,000 new residents by 2036 — and delivers on the requirements under the Ripley Valley Priority Development Area.
The network also makes use of the 480kW solar panel system positioned on the roof of Ripley Town Centre and its carpark structure, which delivers clean and sustainable energy to the community.
“With less capital expenditure, a community energy network removes the barriers that have historically prevented developers from investing in renewables and allows us to share the benefits of locally produced energy,” Mr Hashimoto said.
“This is a long-term, sustainable solution for Ripley Town Centre. While many developers incorporate solar energy, we believe this private community energy network is a first for a masterplan community. We truly want to be sustainable and use our network to give back to the community while reducing our overall carbon footprint.
“Our ultimate aim is to achieve a net zero energy community where residents, retailers and commercial operators can sell excess energy their asset creates to other players within the community and capitalise on another income stream. Additional savings can be injected into existing and future landscaping infrastructure and public amenity.”
As future stages of the masterplan development come to fruition in the coming years, it is anticipated additional sub-stations will be commissioned onto the private community energy network to make way for new infrastructure, generating upwards of 8MVA.
Mr Patsakos describes the partnership with Sekisui House as a ‘meeting of the minds’.
“We are working collectively to achieve significant benefit for Ripley Town Centre consumers. This includes identifying areas to deliver efficiencies, minimising costs and speeding up our services to the township — these are our driving principles,” he said.
“Sekisui House has been talking to us for a long time about how best to plan and configure the network, and which permits to acquire, so the services are delivered seamlessly.”
Click here to view a diagram of the private community energy network.