Powering ahead Part 1 by Susan Davies *

‘Coal to Green’ video by Tom McNish

(an edited version first published in the Bass Coast Post )

Wherever I go across Bass Coast and South Gippsland and beyond I see solar panels, not just a lonely single string on a house as in the old days when I put solar on my place, but large roof-covering accumulations of solar panels on workshops, factories, shops, houses and rural sheds. Numbers are expanding exponentially. It gives me hope. We can act. We can make the change that has to happen. Our small, rural and traditionally conservative communities can see the advantages already, even if some of the old political forces are slow to get the message. It is just happening.

Numbers and sizes of solar installations aren’t expanding because of large government subsidies. Households and businesses install solar because it reduces power bills, it’s easy, has a quick pay-back period and is very reliable (provided you’ve learned the lessons of the past and used a quality installer and quality products).

I am part of the Energy Innovation Co-operative. We have been working in this region for nine years, helping to encourage this change to renewables and energy efficiency. The co-op will add in a small way to the regional renewable energy output with the 90 kW to be installed at the State Coal Mine Wonthaggi. Our Southern CORE (Community Owned Renewable Energy) Fund is helping community groups to install solar panels on their buildings.

There are other solar projects to follow, including inviting small investors to help fund a solar installation in return for income or credit on their power bill. And we will keep providing advice and support through community information sessions and social media. But there are more and bigger solar projects coming on.

The proposed 30 megawatt solar farm outside Wonthaggi has begun the permit and community consultation process. I know of at least three other local proposals that are even less developed. They will come, in time. I want this to be seen as a big plus for all of us. Renewable electricity generation is relatively “low hanging fruit” in reducing carbon emissions. Reducing emissions in other areas of our local economy, such as transport and agriculture, demands more effort from each of us personally. Let’s go for the easier ones like power generation where we can.

*Susan Davies runs a small mixed farm in Outtrim and was founding chair of the Energy Innovation Co-operative.