The Heyfield Wetlands Information Centre became the latest community-owned facility in Gippsland to switch to renewable energy, with the official launch of a 13.32kw solar system. The event was on Tuesday April 12.
The rooftop solar project was supported by Gippsland Community Power Hub (GCPH) – a one stop renewable-energy solution support program delivered by Sustainability Victoria on behalf of the state government.
In 2021, renewable energy sources generated 26 per cent of Victoria’s electricity, according to GCPH, who work to support communities in Gippsland access better energy to save on electricity costs and lower emissions.
Heyfield Wetlands Committee of Management president Wendy Rhodes opened the event and introduced keynote speaker GCPH co-ordinator Darren McCubbin.
Mrs Rhodes said they received funding for the solar panels after applying for a grant.
“We were able to install a 13.32kw system to the grid. It consists of 36 panels and will save us approximately $3000 per year in electricity costs,” Mrs Rhodes said.
The centre’s switch from conventional fossil fuel energy sources to solar energy source will also cut 15.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent each year.
“This is like removing three Australian equivalent cars from the road,” she said.
Mr McCubbin said helping community groups transition their facilities to renewable energy allowed community organisation to divert their electricity savings to support improved service delivery.
“We’ve put solar in community houses, also on a hospital, and I think having a great community resource here for these projects is good for everyone,” Mr McCubbin said.
Mrs Rhodes, who is also the president of the Heyfield Hall, said solar panels were added to the hall a few years back.
“The power generated from the 120 panels has eliminated two power bills and made it possible for the Committee of Management to sell power to the Heyfield Library at a much reduced rate,” Mrs Rhodes said.
“This is a win for the Committee of Management and also the Wellington Shire, who are the land holders of the building.”
Mr McCubbin said he was proud of Heyfield’s community-led renewable energy work.
“Heyfield has one of Australia’s highest rooftop solar per capita ratio,” Mr McCubbin said.
“I think there’s only one remaining community building in Heyfield that does not have solar panels on it and that’s where the vintage tractors are.|
“Heyfield’s such a wonderful community, we’re so fortunate to have a project like this in our backyard.
“But what’s here in Heyfield is just part of the new energy revolution that’s happening in Gippsland. We’re transitioning from brown coal into cleaner, greener energy and communities like Heyfield are playing a big role in this.”
Mr McCubbin said that homeowners can consider residential rebates for solar on their properties from Solar Victoria.
Sustainability Victoria regional team manager Luke Wilkinson congratulated Heyfield and Gippsland for supporting their region’s renewable energy transition.
“These solar projects are not about deploying massive gigawatts of energy, we’ll leave that to the offshore wind farms,” Mr Wilkinson said.
“They’re about proving and demonstrating how local communities can benefit from clean energy, while keeping it local.”
GCPH communications officer Rowena McNaughton said that communities in Gippsland had been embracing solar.
“They’re recognising it’s a way to reduce their power bills while also playing a part in lowering carbon emissions which is something these community groups are proud to have achieved,” Ms McNaughton said.
Community groups spanning Lucknow Senior Football Netball Club to Sale Neighbourhood House have been supported by GCPH to switch to renewable energy source.
“Solar panels and battery systems are subsidised but there remains a cost that community groups need support to raise. Renewable energy technology is also constantly evolving so there’s also need for free, neutral technical advice which the Hub can provide,” Ms McNaughton said.
“At the end of the day we want to ensure our communities can maintain their health, sport, arts and cultural services.
“Strong communities make flourishing towns.”