Australian-first iniatiative

Eric and Margaret Martin.

An Australian-first initiative by developer GemLife is connecting more than 10,000 homes to Virtual Power Plants (VPPs), making its communities up to 90 per cent energy independent while saving residents more than 60 per cent on their power bills.

GemLife, one of the leading over-50s lifestyle resort developers, believes it is the first in the country to install the cutting-edge technology in a large-scale masterplanned community, with VPPs now operating at its GemLife Maroochy Quays, GemLife Bribie Island and GemLife Palmwoods resorts, all in South-East Queensland.

GemLife said they will invest more than $75 million over the next six years in developing VPPs across its portfolio of 11 existing and new communities in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

The commitment follows a successful trial of the innovative technology at its GemLife Palmwoods community, in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, where the average power bill reduced to just $8 during the six-month testing period.

“The VPP shields residents from soaring electricity prices, offering bill consistency, which is vitally important for our residents, the majority of who are on fixed incomes,” GemLife Director and CEO Adrian Puljich explained.

“At the same time, we’re contributing to a more sustainable future, with the initiative projected to significantly reduce carbon emissions, while limiting our reliance on the national energy grid, to assist with energy firming – so it really is win-win.

“Across the first three communities, we’ve already connected 700 homes to VPPs, at no cost to our homeowners, and will be installing the system in all our existing communities by the end of 2024, with all our new communities to open with the technology already in place.

“The initiative sets a new benchmark for the development industry, and particularly communities of this kind, when it comes to forward-thinking sustainable design, and we hope the broader industry will follow suit.”

He said the VPP initiative was spearheaded by GemLife which brought Australian energy technology companies Evergen and Evopower on board to collaborate to create a robust custom-designed system to achieve 90 per cent onsite renewable energy generation and storage.

The system includes a network of homes and community facilities with rooftop solar plus a bank of commercial-grade battery connected via smart AI-driven technology, which is capable of predicting the demand for energy use, by monitoring weather conditions and optimal charge times.

GemLife Palmwoods residents Eric and Margaret Martin said the VPP was a welcome relief, given the volatility of energy pricing amidst other cost of living pressures.

“Our bills have been very small and once the senior’s discount has been applied, we’ve had nothing to pay at all,” says Margaret.

“It’s such a relief not having to worry about using the air conditioner when it’s hot and fearing what your electricity bill will be at the end of the month.”

Eric said it had taken the worry away when it came to rising power bills.

“It also means we can enjoy the benefit of electricity savings through the VPP without having to think about any costs associated with upgrading or maintaining the system ourselves, which is an additional benefit,” said Eric.

The VPPs address the rising cost of electricity bills for residents, while bringing broader community benefits including the reduction in carbon emission and reliance on the under-pressure national energy grid.

“Like many regions across the country, our Sunshine Coast community continues to face the challenges that come with the rising costs of living. That is why it is so important to take the time to recognise the innovation and commitment of organisation’s such as GemLife, whose programs look to be part of the solution and support our communities,” says Sunshine Coast Council Mayor Mark Jamieson.

“Our region has long been recognised as a hub for innovation and a leader in sustainability, and pioneering projects such as this are critical in cementing our reputation as a future-proof and environmentally responsible community.”

On the Sunshine Coast, all 264 homes at GemLife Maroochy Quays and 204 homes at GemLife Palmwoods are connected to their community’s VPP, while all 404 homes at GemLife Bribie Island are benefitting from the new technology.

EV charging stations have also been installed in each community to support residents driving electric vehicles, adding to the broader environmental benefits.

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