Community solar lights up the Blue Mountains

The beautiful blue mountains. Photo flickr/10uta02

The beautiful blue mountains. Photo flickr/10uta02

Shameless plug to start this week’s column readers. August has seen community solar take off in a big way in my region of the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. This may be due to a combination of the upcoming election and a very strong grassroots realisation of the need for solar energy at a community level.

This remote SQHQ regional outpost has been a flurry of community solar activity as more residents become aware of the need to mitigate high electricity prices, as well as help preserve the beautiful Blue Mountains environment.

First there was the launch of a new community solar group called BMRenew earlier this month. A large and well-publicised event attended by luminaries such as former Federal Court Judge Murray Wilcox (MC), Blue Mountains City Council Mayor Daniel Myles and fellow councillors, as well as federal Greens candidate Danielle Wheeler. The group is a volunteer group of Blue Mountains people working together to promote community-owned renewable energy projects. The group aim to follow the lead of community solar organisations in other parts of the world that have been so successful.

Secondly was the launch of another community solar organisation (more launches than Tim Winton’s new novel here this month readers) named Solar Citizens.

Solar Citizens in the Blue Mountains is part of an Australia-wide movement also aimed at promoting community solar, though at a different, more direct,  level. As Dr Geoff Evans, the campaign manager for Solar Citizens explained to local newspaper the Blue Mountains Gazette , the aim is to make sure the solar energy message cuts through to voters.

“Election time is when parties commit to policy platforms but one thing isn’t being talked about enough is cheap, clean energy — the solar revolution here in the Blue Mountains,” said Dr Evans.

The group is promoting solar — including community solar — through a local strategy of market stalls and a presence at street fairs as well as good old fashioned doorknocking.

With the seat of Macquarie set to be one of the marginals going into the upcoming election, the votes of people who appreciate the benefits of solar energy may be vital.

As Dr Evans pointed out:

“Over 9000 homes have solar panels or hot water on their roof in the Macquarie electorate and that number is increasing.”

Both BMRenew and Solar Citizens are indicative of people’s desire for clean energy and a need to preserve the environment. We at SQHQ heartily endorse the need for community solar and community led initiatives to spread the word on clean energy and mitigate rising electricity prices. Solar energy, including government support for community solar, has been conspicuously absent during the election campaign thus far. Such programs for community solar would be a great way to start addressing people’s concerns about the lack of access to clean energy.

What do you think? Is community solar and local initiatives such as BMRenew and the Blue Mountains chapter of Solar Citizens the way to the future for Australian solar energy? Or is utility scale solar the best renewable hope for our energy needs? Or perhaps a combination of the two? Leave your thoughts here or over at our Facebook Page.

 

Comments

  1. I’m looking forward to the day we look back in wonder at Aussie reluctance to embrace clean energy! We will be swimming in cheap, clean, renewable energy and gaining all the health benefits of abandoning goal and gas.

  2. Yes Minister says

    I’d dearly love for someone to advise me how to educate moronic politicians like Queenslands Newman & McArdle. A while back I contacted the renewable energy division of the Department of Energy re a proposal to establish a non-profit community solar farm. The clown in charge was adamant that the QLD government would take all possible steps to ensure projects like this never get off the ground in Queensland as they have the potential to harm the profitability of Energex & Ergon.(presently being dressed up for sale to asian interests)

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