Bendigo bulk-buy solar scheme re-opened12th Aug 2011
The second round of a community initiative to foster the adoption of solar panel systems has been opened this week.
Bendigo and Mount Alexander Shire sustainability groups have partnered to form the Goldfields SolarHub project.
The initiative aims to help households, businesses and community groups in the region buy and install solar panel systems.
By forming a partnership, the two areas are running a large scale bulk buy program for solar panel systems, as their joint buying power allows them to acquire materials at a more competitive rate.
When the program was first launched in March 2011, Janet Cropley, mayor of Mount Alexander Shire Council, said: "This opportunity will benefit residents who have previously been unable to afford the set-up costs associated with a solar panel system."
"We are pleased that the two regional sustainability groups are working together to develop innovative programs that aim to make a difference in our Shire," she added.
The project's first round saw 270 houses fitted with solar panels, attributed to cheaper prices and the eco-friendly awareness raised by the campaign.
Karen Corr, Bendigo Sustainability Group member, says: "We're aiming to have 1000 solar panels in the next 18 months."
When completed, the total capacity for the renewable energy network will be two megawatts, equivalent to 23 per cent of the Victorian state government's solar hubs target.
"The up-front costs are still cheap with a federal rebate," Corr says.
Victorians can currently take advantage of a feed-in tariff that gives them financial incentives to install solar systems.
By generating electricity and feeding it into the area's power grid, utilities companies can buy this excess power from everyday households, allowing consumers to reduce the cost of their electricity bill.
Speculation is rising that the tariff scheme is set to close in the near future as it nears the set cap.
The sustainability groups opened the tender to over 100 solar panel companies in order to find the best quality materials for a price that would be attractive to households and businesses.
Corr highlights consumers' need for assistance when it comes to evaluating their solar options.
"The benefits (to customers) are that we’ve done a lot of the research for them and having the Goldfields team there to facilitate is good," she says.
Consumers who aren't eligible for the scheme are encouraged to adopt a similar approach by shopping around and getting quotes for solar systems that fit their energy needs and budget.
By: Mike Peacock - Solar Correspondent