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Solar scheme and projects on the rise in Australia

23rd Sep 2011

The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) and a Yeppoon entrepreneur have come together to launch an innovative approach to implementing solar power systems in everyday households.

Watt Else applies a bulk-buying approach to purchasing solar panel systems and aims to help residents in central Queensland implement renewable energy technology in their homes.

The initiative was conceived by Rhodes Watson, a Yeppoon resident who believes in the ability of household solar panel systems to provide an economic alternative to electricity generation for consumers.

Watson co-founded the program with Martin Carlin, a student at RMIT who shared his vision.

Queensland energy minister Stephen Robertson recently visited the home of the initiative to evaluate the results.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive, echoing previous consumer demand in the sunshine state of solar panel technology amongst everyday Australians looking to offset the cost of their electricity bill.

The program was the recipient of a Social and Environmental Enterprise Developments (SEEDS) fellowship in April 2011 - an RMIT initiative that assists students in setting up culturally beneficial sustainable ventures.

RMIT states: "SEEDS is aimed at students with exceptional ideas for social enterprises and the nous and determination required to bring that idea to fruition."

Martin Carlin says: "The RMIT SEEDS fellowship has been fantastic in helping us consolidate our ideas and establish Watt Else as a thriving social enterprise."

So far, 260 Queensland homes have installed solar panel systems with another 100 awaiting installation.

Currently the scheme is unavailable outside of Central Queensland - however homeowners in other areas can evaluate their local options for solar installation.

Australian solar continues to soar elsewhere - with the Uterne Alice Springs energy plant becoming the largest of its kind in the country.

California-based SunPower recently completed construction of a one megawatt plant, featuring more than 3,000 solar panels which are positioned to follow the sun during the day.

The Alice Springs project forms part of the Australian Government's $94 million Solar Cities program.

Northern Territory's Power and Water Corporation has committed to purchasing power generated by the plant for the next two decades, securing a viable renewable energy source for the region in the future.

SunPower managing director Bob Blakiston says: "Uterne demonstrates that - just like any other fuel production plant - solar generation can be supported by a long-term power purchase agreement, setting a positive precedent for the development of similar projects in this country."

Posted by Mike Peacock - Solar Correspondent

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