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17 July 2019
By DEAN LAWSON
Ararat municipal leader Tim Harrison is confident the region is well placed to exploit growth opportunities generated by large renewable-energy farms in the region.
Dr Harrison, Ararat Rural City Council chief executive, said a push to expand renewable-energy generation in Victoria had the potential to open the door to a raft of fresh development projects.
He said the Grampians region, which included Ararat, was generating an enormous amount of energy for the national electricity grid via wind farms and it was logical to consider ways to tap into the resource before it left the region.
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“Our part of the world is generating a valuable product that everyone wants and needs. Why not consider this product as the foundation for a value-adding concept that attracts industry?” he said.
“We’re making electricity here and I can’t help but wonder about the extent of the potential of what we’re producing in our own back yards.
“The door is open to explore with stakeholders the benefits and opportunities that might exist with some clever thinking, planning and collaboration.”
Dr Harrison said the idea of using a home-grown resource to stimulate a regional economy was obvious and far from new.
“It’s actually a no-brainer. Just think about all the industries that would love the opportunity to tap into readily available, efficient and relatively cheap power that they could work into a business case where there were benefits, not only financially, but also socially and environmentally. It would tick a lot of boxes,” he said.
“For example, we know data centres and warehouses, that are basically the backbone of the cloud-based digital economy, consume large amounts of electricity.
“We also know they generate the types of high-value jobs we desperately need in regional communities.
“These data centres are probably getting to a stage where it is inappropriate for them to be based in high-density, built-up areas when regional solutions are beckoning.
“And it doesn’t just stop there. There are so many industries that are looking for ways where they can tap into value-adding formulas to make production viable and profitable.
“This is about creating the incentives and opportunities that everyone talks about in attracting people to regional areas.”
Dr Harrison said the region was already seeing an example of this concept unfolding near Great Western through the development of Bulgana Green Power Hub.
“It’s emerging as a potential blueprint and is rightly capturing attention,” he said.
“Renewable energy is going to get generated there while at the same time, connective on-site industry through Nectar farms equates to feet-on-the-ground employment and growth.
“The Bulgana example zeroes in on one particular industry, but the reality is that there are many industrial opportunities available and they are limited only by imagination.”
Dr Harrison said Ararat was in a strong position to capitalise on this type of regional concept.
“The city is relatively close to Melbourne, is on a primary electrical transmission line, is home to a community that embraces new technologies and is rapidly developing its manufacturing sector when other parts of the country are struggling,” he said.
“When you start joining the dots and start thinking this way, a clear picture of opportunity starts to emerge.”
Dr Harrison said he planned to discuss the concept in greater depth with Ararat council, regional business and development and government leaders.
The entire July 17, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!