Solar Power Program Still Helping Bushfire Affected Communities 

REConstruct solar program

An initiative to supply community organisations affected by the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires with free solar power systems is continuing to work away at getting panels onto rooftops.

Led by solar panel manufacturer REC along with partners including Fronius and SMA, the REConstruct program offered approximately 50 systems (10kW maximum size) fully installed by a local solar expert. Given the companies involved, the systems and installation are all top-shelf stuff.

A community group to have a system installed recently under the program was Wollombi Valley Progress Association in New South Wales’ Hunter Valley.

The Association owns and operates Laguna Community Hall, which is run by volunteers. During the bushfire emergency, the hall was a 24/7 headquarters for firies battling the blazes for weeks – and the hall racked up a significant electricity bill in the process.

The fires haven’t been the only challenge the group have faced over the past couple of years. Like many with halls, income is generated from hall hire – and lockdowns have had their impact.

The solar power system, which features REC Alpha solar panels1 was installed by MJJ’s Solar last week.

This is a fantastic initiative and another great example of the solar industry giving back to communities – you can learn more about the REConstruct program here.

Association’s Coal Battle Continues

While Wollombi Valley Progress Association’s battle to rein in Laguna Community Hall’s electricity costs is over, another is continuing.

The Wollombi region is one of a number of areas in NSW identified by the State Government as being a potential site for “responsible production of coal”. How the heck do you achieve that given current circumstances? Any coal production now is irresponsible, even if it may be (currently) necessary.

Aside from all the other problems associated with ripping coal from the ground and then burning it, climate change is exacerbating catastrophic bushfire conditions – so it’s little wonder the Association and the wider community really isn’t keen on having a coal mine on its doorstep for this and other reasons.

It seems Wollombi was selected as a potential coal mine exploration site due to its proximity to other mines (Broke & Bellbird), therefore reducing infrastructure costs for mines,” says the No Mine In Wollombi Facebook page. “However, no details were given from the selection process. The impact on the community, the natural surroundings and our history has not been considered.”

The group is urging the community to contact Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole to tell him why Wollombi is no place for a mine. 

“He has listened to other communities – so let’s be clear – this mine should never go ahead.”

While it’s been traditionally been coal country, communities throughout the Hunter region are preparing for life after the problematic fossil fuel. Each of the ten member councils of the Hunter Joint Organisation have signed on to accelerate clean energy initiatives and it was the first region nationally to join the Cities Power Partnership.

Footnotes

  1. You can find specifications for REC Alpha on SQ’s solar panel comparison table
About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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