Sustainable Seymour

Sustainable Seymour Final Update October 2017

Sustainable Seymour began with a series of workshops in June 2015.  Since then we have achieved a lot of the proposals made at the workshop – below is a summary.  Over the past year, renewable energy has taken up a lot of our time and a big step forward was taken last Thursday 12th October when a new group – Mitchell Community Energy – was launched (see separate article).

BEAM Mitchell Environment Group has been the main driver of Sustainable Seymour since 2015.  We have now decided to wind up the Sustainable Seymour network.  The work on renewable energy will continue with the new group and BEAM will continue to follow up the many other sustainability issues in Mitchell Shire and beyond.

We recommend you continue your interests and involvement by joining these organisations:

Achievements of the Sustainable Seymour Network

In June 2015, Beyond Zero Emissions joined with Seymour U3A, The Seymour We Want and BEAM Mitchell Environment Group to run two workshops on the theme of “Sustainable Seymour”.  Out of these workshops came a set of ideas around five themes that were developed during other workshops, coffee shop discussions and email storms.  And the people who attended the workshops formed the Sustainable Seymour Network.

The five themes were:

Transport:  the workshops focussed on pedestrian and bicycle travel and public transport.  Some of us attended a forum run by Public Transport Victoria in 2015 and later made submissions to PTV.  The theme was further followed up in the preparation of the Seymour Structure Plan during 2017.

Waste:  many proposals came up at the workshops and were further developed during a visit to the Wallan Resource Recovery Centre in 2015 organised by the Council’s Waste Management staff and during a workshop attended by the staff.  All this culminated in written submissions to the draft Waste Management Strategy.  There are still a lot of ideas to pursue around waste management, the latest being the Boomerang Bags initiative.

Buildings:  the workshops identified the quality of both new and older buildings in Seymour – and particularly their comfort and energy efficiency – as a big issue.  BEAM had previously helped Goulburn Valley Community Energy to deliver their Low Income Energy Efficiency Program and we joined forces to apply for New Energy Jobs Funding for a program to provide home energy audits and some retrofitting of older houses.  The application was not successful but we still intend to look into this project over the next few years.   Again, some of the ideas from the workshops went into our submissions for the Seymour Structure Plan.

Land Use:  development of the Seymour Structure Plan began with SS workshops in 2016.  Three members of the SS Network were selected for the Community Liaison Group to work with the Council on the Plan.   Throughout the development of the Plan, we continually emphasised the need to incorporate the principles and possibilities of sustainability.  The Plan covered a lot of areas discussed at the SS workshops so we were in a good position to promote sustainability in its many forms.  This culminated in a detailed submission on the draft Plan in September 2017.  The process continues but our big push now is to promote implementation of the Plan.

Renewable Energy:  the SS workshops came up with a lot of suggestions for renewable energy.  BEAM has been discussing the Cherry Tree Wind Farm with Infigen but we have no direct involvement with that project.  The workshops were keen on community energy projects, so we decided that, to start somewhere, we would focus on a few projects that would be well supported.  The two start-up projects are:

  1. Solar panels on the Seymour Sports and Aquatic Centre. Th Centre has a large roof area and consumes a lot of electricity costing $277 per day of over $100,00 per annum.  The Centre is owned by the Council and they have been supporting the steps so far.  The Council obtained a grant for a feasibility study topped up with some of their own funds.  The study showed that a 99kW system would provide about 20% of the electricity consumption, equal to about $25,000 per annum.  At a cost of $120,000, this is a good investment and ideal way to start a community energy project.
  2. Pumped Hydro-electricity Scheme at Trawool: The plan is to pump water from the Goulburn River to the old Trawool Reservoir at times when there is surplus electrical energy, and run the water back down through turbines when demand exceeds supply.  We teamed up with Euroa Environment Group who have a similar PHES project near Euroa. and were successful in obtaining a New Energy Jobs Fund grant for a pre-feasibility study.  That study is now complete.  It showed that the Trawool proposal may be viable technically, economically and environmentally but there are still a lot of questions to be addressed.  We are pursuing funding to continue the work.

In summary, we have achieved a lot since June 2015.  The work will continue, but under either BEAM or Mitchell Community Energy.  So please continue to support sustainability in Seymour through these two groups.


Sustainable Seymour Update July 2017

After a long and at times frustrating wait, activity is now building around the many initiatives that will help create a more sustainable Seymour.  In this update:

  • Draft Seymour Structure Plan is now out for public consultation
  • Seymour Sports and Aquatic Centre Solar Project moving to the next stage
  • Pumped Hydro Electricity Storage Pre-feasibility study completed
  • Sustainable Seymour talks to parliamentary inquiry into community energy projects
  • Repair Café up and running in Seymour
  • Council Community Environment Survey now open
  • Are we “Everyday Makers”?

Seymour Structure Plan out for public consultation

A draft of the Seymour Structure Plan will be available for public comment and feedback for six weeks from 31st July to 11th September.  A draft of the Seymour Structure Plan was presented to the Mitchell Shire Councillors for a vote on June 19th.  However, the Councillors wanted more time to review the plan and incorporate some changes and finally endorsed the Draft Seymour Structure Plan to go out on public consultation on 17th July – a good sign that the Councillors are taking their responsibilities very seriously.

Drop in sessions will take place at Chittick Place, Seymour Sports & Aquatic Centre, on

  • Thursday 3rd August 2pm – 8pm
  • Tuesday 15th August 2pm – 8pm
  • Wednesday 23rd August 10.30am – 4.30pm
  • Thursday 7th September 2pm – 8pm

Documentation will soon be available at Seymour 3660.

Sustainable Seymour Network members will be preparing submissions on the plan.  If you have any comments on the Plan, please forward them to Council and also to Peter Mitchell so they can also be considered and added to our submissions.

Seymour Sports and Aquatic Centre Project

The feasibility study into the proposal for photo-voltaic panels on the roof of the Seymour Sports and Aquatic Centre is waiting for engineering assessments.  However, the preliminary report shows an excellent 5 year payback for 99kW of panels at a cost of $120,000.  So we have decided to start the process for making this happen.

There are two options to pay for it, the shire to raise a loan or a community group to present a case to the council for community investment.   We favour the community option so the project has community ownership and we can use this project to build the organisational structure to move onto other projects.  Future projects could include rooftop solar on other buildings such as Karingal and panels on shading structures over the parking areas at Chittick Park – all including battery storage.  We are also keen to look at ways to increase energy efficiency – shown to be a more effective and lower tech way to reduce electricity use and power bills.

Jeff Wilmot got the discussion moving in July with a detailed proposal of the next steps and a working group has held two meetings to flesh out the next steps.  These steps include setting up a community organisation (possibly as a sub-group of The Seymour We Want) and establishing an MOU with the Council for the SSAC Project.  Our broader aim is to set up a structure that can develop and implement several projects across Seymour.

Tom Brown, Strategic Coordinator Hume Region for Sustainability Victoria, attended the second meeting and told us of the many initiatives to help community energy groups get started.  This includes the Bendigo Community Power Hub hosted by Bendigo Sustainability Group and legal templates and workshops for groups due in September.  There are also several groups that can assist with projects and help reduce the time and costs we need to set up the organisation – such as CORENA and ClearSky Solar Investments.

There are several models of community projects already in operation in NSW, notably Lismore with two 99kW installations on council premises and Shoalhaven, with 11 projects from 9kW to 99kW on bowling clubs, businesses and churches.

One project model being considered for Seymour works as follows:  A suitable host premises is identified, which could be owned by a shire council, a public organisation or a business. A trust is formed with a maximum of 20 shareholders to finance the installation.  Once in operation the host pays a regular dividend to the investors. After say ten years the investors’ capital is fully repaid and the host fully owns the installation. There are several variations on this scenario. The return to the investors is in the region of 5 to 7% and the experience has been that the trusts are fully subscribed within hours. From the ABC News, 30 April 1917:  “The public appetite for community funded renewable energy appears to be limitless, with projects proving so popular they are selling out within minutes of being offered to investors.”  This is our chance to join them.

Another model is based on donations to set up a revolving fund that would be used to invest in a succession of projects.  We could work with groups such as CORENA on this approach.  Then there are considerations about whether we own and run the installation or are a vehicle for identifying, developing and funding projects that are built, owned and managed by other organisations.  There is a lot to consider.

Jeff Wilmot and Peter Mitchell

Pumped Hydro Electricity Storage

Roger Dargaville has now completed his assessment of the financial costs and returns of the two pumped hydro electricity storage proposals at Euroa and the Trawool Valley. His report is about to be submitted to the Government.

The Trawool scheme shows a positive benefit because the head between reservoir and river allows a generator capacity of 6MW and the short horizontal distance minimises the pipe cost. He estimates a cost at $8.7 million and a return of up to 7%. In his report Roger points out that an equivalent battery would cost $21 million.

On the other hand the Euroa scheme is not so attractive. Its much lower head limits the capacity to 2MW for a capital cost of $8.05 million. Removing the need for the diesel generators would make a return of about 3%. A major part of the cost is the replacement of the existing pipe. If Goulburn Valley Water can be persuaded to subsidise this decides the return could be made more attractive.

The financial returns in this assessment are based on arbitrage, that is buying power from the grid at low cost and selling it back at a higher cost. But the recent Finkel review requires that future renewable energy installations have storage associated with them, and that adds another potential benefit of our schemes.

And there is more. AusNet Services is interested in the possibilities for grid stability. If the generators are kept spinning they provide inertia that would supply fault current. It would also help to stabilise the system’s frequency and voltage. AusNet is considering whether this would work and if so whether they could consider the installations to be new assets or service providers or what. Roger is involved in discussions with them.

Jeff Wilmot

Parliamentary Inquiry: Community Energy Projects

Sustainable Seymour project member Jeff Wilmot provides a report on a recent hearing of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Community Energy Projects.

Last year the Victorian Government began an inquiry into Community Energy projects, to which the Euroa Environment Group made a submission. An all-party Economic, Education, Jobs and Skills Committee has been conducting follow-up hearings and the Euroa group was invited to present in Shepparton on 31 May. The committee indicated particular interest in pumped hydro schemes, and so EEG invited me to join them. This provided the opportunity to describe the Trawool scheme and the history of the project, using this aerial photo. In the photo you can see the Reservoir at the top of the range, Goulburn River in the valley, Falls (Trawool) Creek in the band of trees across the green patch on the left, Cherry Tree Range on the other side of the Goulburn River valley. Goulburn Valley Highway, the Rail trail and 66kV line on this side of the valley.

The committee asked if Seymour had any other community projects, so I told them about the PV panels on the aquatic centre project, emphasizing the role of Mitchell Shire because cooperation with shire councils was another of  their interests. A full transcript of our appearance is available on the Inquiry website.

Members of the Seymour community have recently started up a Repair Café.  The Seymour Repair Cafe is being held on the Third Saturday of the month which is 19th August, 16th September, 21st October & 18th November.  The Seymour Repair Cafe now has its own Facebook page – like and follow the page to keep up to date and get reminders about future events.

Last month we were very fortunate with the weather. It was a delightful sunny day so we were able to “play” outside. We fixed an antique lamp, which completely thrilled the owner, mended a much loved winter top, repaired a shaver and worked on remote controlled cars and now have one that goes in reverse when it wouldn’t before! We also discovered what batteries can look like when they are long past their use by date – yuk! We still have a number of remote controlled items that are waiting to be brought back to life so kids are especially encouraged to come along. If you have other broken toys bring those as well.

A couple of our “Fixers” have taken holidays up North for a month or two so if you, or anyone you know, would like to join us and contribute knowledge and skills please come along and have fun with us or give David (0409 382 219) or Irene (0425 755 093) a call to find out more.

Irene Telford

Council Community Environment Survey now open

Council is undertaking a community environment survey to obtain baseline data to gain a better understanding of what our community values most about the natural environment, what environmental and sustainability works and activities are being undertaken and any barriers preventing these actions.  The information will be used to assist in the development of new programs and the evaluation and improvement of our existing programs.

You can access the survey from the Engaging Mitchell website. The survey will close on August 31 and we urge you to complete it.

Everyday Makers

We groan and rant at our political leadership and the way we are governed, but it is difficult to see an alternative.  We live in a political world dominated by a political class supported by the media and by the richest in society.  So an article in The Conversation titled Everyday makers defy populists’ false promise to embody ‘your voice’ strikes a chord.

In the article, Professor Henrik Bang reviews how both populism and neoliberalism take away from out autonomy and ability to shape our lives (you need to read the article about all that).

As an alternative, he proposes that amateurs are at the core of democracy – laypeople who express themselves by connecting with each other in various networks and project communities. There can be no representative, participatory, discursive or deliberative democracy without laypeople who can and will govern and take care of themselves.

He calls active laypeople who engage with one another in political networks and action communities to pursue various goals and projects everyday makers. They:

  • want to do things themselves;
  • do it for fun or because they find it necessary;
  • on their own terms and conditions;
  • with or without experts;
  • for, against, with, or by avoiding the system;
  • on and off, when they have time for it and feel like it;
  • by connecting with others across all differences;
  • online and offline; and
  • as expressive persons who want to make a difference, when associating to articulate and pursue a common project or cause.

We in the Sustainable Seymour Network are “everyday makers” with all our local initiatives.  Your support and participation is very welcome.

Peter Mitchell


Sustainable Seymour Update January 2017

Pumped Hydro Study begins

The Pumped Hydro Feasibility Study is getting under way.  The $50,000 funding has been received from the New Energy Jobs Fund (DEDJTR) and is being administered by Euroa Environment Group.  Roger Dargaville from the Melbourne Energy Institute has been engaged to lead the study.

The feasibility study is designed with a series of milestones to be achieved before it proceeds to the next step. The study on one or other site would end if the study shows that the project is not feasible at that step.  So we are watching the process closely – and optimistically at this stage.  The study is due to finish in mid-late 2017.   

One of the first – and critical – milestones is a geotechnical assessment of the two sites. On 25th November, Roger and  representatives of the Seymour Strathbogie Energy Alliance met with Goulburn Valley Water that manages the water storages involved in the project.  Jeff Wilmot reports:

Present at the morning meeting in Goulburn Room, Seymour SAC were Roger Dargaville, Nathan Epp and five others from Goulburn Valley Water, Shirley Saywell, Andi Kofler and Charlie Brydon from Euroa and Richard Telford, Bob Brown, Julie Mitchell, Malcolm Green and and Jeff Wilmot from Seymour. After lunch Roger, Nathan , his offsider Greg, and Jeff  visited the Strathbogie reservoirs  and then those four plus Malcolm, Julie and Richard visited the Trawool reservoir.


Perhaps 2 MW could be expected from pumped hydro between the Waterhouse and Abinga reservoirs near Euroa. Having a relatively low head, a large amount of water is required to generate this power.  The consequent change in water level would reduce the head to 80 metres.

2 MW is the size of the diesel generator used now to back up the Euroa supply. Peak demand at Euroa spikes in summer at 5 MW when the generator is now switched on. But the water demand at the same time is also at a peak and water levels in Waterhouse and Abbinga dams are at their lowest. So the potential 2 MW from the pumped hydro may not be available when it is needed most.

New pipe is required to replace existing pipe between which is 375 mm AC and not large enough or of sufficient pressure rating. It also has to bypass Mountain Hutt reservoir.  The length of pipe is 4 km and would possibly cost $4million. A considerable part if its length is in flat land approaching Abinga, and the pipe cost could be reduced if a new reservoir was built closer to Waterhouse.


The available head and volume of water being considered equate to storage of 44 MWh of electricity. Generator capacity could be 4 MW which could run for 11 hours, or a greater capacity to run for a shorter time.

Potential income from arbitraging (buying cheap power and selling expensive power as determined by time of day) could be $1million per year. What return on investment that represents depends on the capital cost for which dependable engineering estimates still have to be obtained.

Another potential function could be to flatten the output of the Cherry Tree Range wind farm.

The wall is considered able to withstand the duty cycle involved, being masonry and therefore not porous which would be damaged by a daily wetting and drying out. Its continuing integrity after 120 years (built in 1895) is also a good indicator.  Water is leaking from the valve at the bottom of the wall which indicates that the reservoir has not silted up.

The outlet pipes would be protected by suitable screens to prevent objects from entering and would also be a safety barrier. Outside that the water would be slow moving and the reservoir would still be available for recreation.  There would be no need for fencing.


As a means of electricity storage the cost of PHES is one tenth of the cost of equivalent batteries.

Nathan raised the possibility of Goulburn Valley Water making a commercial enterprise of these projects.

Euroa Environment Group have set up a website for the community engagement part of the feasibility study at Photos taken by Anthony Chisholm using a drone can be seen by using the search tag (upper right) and typing in “Seymour” or “Strathbogie” then Enter.  This is a photo of Trawool Reservoir.  Videos from the drone will be posted soon.