A very informative seminar was hosted last week by Renewable Energy Benalla (part of BSFG) at the Benalla Uniting Church on solar panel and home battery installations. Brad Foletta, Director of Solargain Wangaratta, spoke on Solargain's experience in solar panels, batteries and solar hot water systems, with around 3000 installations in the North East over the past nine years since Solargain was established. Brad and more than half his staff are Benalla locals, so the company knows the local area intimately.
Brad made mention of noted engineer and thinker, Saul Griffith, and his mantra “Electrify Everything” for combatting the use of fossil fuels for power and addressing climate change, as one of the key drivers for Solargain’s work across our region.
Brad spoke about the current state of solar, developments in output and reliability of solar panels in the last decade or so, and demonstrated the significant cost savings on power bills for households who install panels (especially with the various subsidies available to offset installation costs). He then expanded on the related topic of home batteries. Brad spoke about; adding batteries to an existing system and how this works; the types of systems now available (self-consumption, partial backup, full backup and full off-grid systems); warranties and monitoring, and outlined the subsidies available for home battery installations.
Brad highlighted a couple of key messages to the attentive audience:-
Brad and his team fielded many questions from the attendees, who appreciated his clear and knowledgeable presentation on a complex topic.
Renewable Energy Benalla
An Action Group of Benalla Sustainable Future Group
BSFG members and supporters are invited to a Community Forum about Solar Panels and Home Batteries at 7:30pm, on Thursday 27th April at the Benalla Uniting Church.
Brad Foletta from Solargain Wangaratta will be speaking to inform us of the latest developments and state of play in this area, covering these aspects:
Attendance is free, but for catering purposes, please book your place using the Trybooking link
We look forward to seeing you at this forum which promises to be very informative.
I would like to explain how the solar panels came to be installed on Bernard Briggs Kindergarten.
I am Convenor of Renewable Energy Benalla, which is an action group of Benalla Sustainable Future Group, a not-for-profit community group which actively encourages taking action on climate change.
Renewable Energy Benalla seeks to encourage the uptake of renewable energy in Benalla Rural City and has initiated the Benalla Community Energy Project as one way of contributing to this. The community energy project aims to establish a donation based revolving fund to install solar panels or undertake energy efficiency upgrades on community facilities in and around Benalla.
The project provides interest free loans to the selected community facilities, to fund the works required, with no upfront contribution being necessary. Loan repayments to the fund from the host site are based on the estimated savings made on energy bills. The loan repayments gradually rebuild the balance of the fund, which can then be used to make a loan to another community building. In this way the fund becomes a revolving fund.
Donations from the community help rebuild the balance of the fund more quickly than relying solely on loan repayments, which enables new loans to be made to other community facilities more frequently.
Following discussions with the kindergarten management group, the North East Regional PreSchool Association, Munro Ave was selected as our first project with panels installed last May.
We have also been very fortunate to obtain another grant of $5000 from Winton Solar Farm which together with significant contributions from others, including some loan repayments from Munro Ave, enabled us to fund the installation of panels here, at Bernard Briggs, without the need for fund raising.
The system that was installed was a 6.6kW system which will reduce electricity costs for the kindergarten by more than $1500 per year.
Future projects however will require donations from the community. A local business, Rustik Café, has a donations box on the counter in which customers often donate small change. When Rustik heard about this project they decided to donate the money from this box to our project. Their first donation was $135 and they will continue to donate money collected in this way. Thank you to Rustik.
I would now like to thank the people and organisations that have made major contributions to this project.
First, we must once again thank Winton Solar Farm for providing us with a second Community Benefit Grant of $5000 which enabled us to fund our second project. Our thanks to Erin McPherson, who is representing Winton Solar Farm here today,
I also need to thank Brad Foletta, the Manager at Solargain Wangaratta, for the significant in-kind contribution to the installation costs of the panels. Unfortunately, Brad is unable to attend today because he has contracted Covid. Blake Smith, the Marketing Manager for Solargain, is here in his place.
This was a difficult job with a steep roof and very old fragile terracotta tiles, but the team from Solargain did a quality job.
Without the contributions and support from these people we would not be here today celebrating this event.
It is now my pleasure to introduce Dr Helen Haines, the Independent Federal Member for Indi, who will officially launch this project. Among the many aspects of her work for Indi communities, Dr Haines has a special interest in promoting renewable energy and in particular Community Energy.
In February last year, Helen tabled in Parliament her private member's bill, the Australian Local Power Agency Bill 2021, which would encourage investment in community owned energy in regional areas, which would allow ordinary Australians to share in the benefits of the renewable energy boom.
Given Helen's interest in this area we felt it was highly appropriate to ask her to be our key-note speaker.
Finally, can I thank you all for attending our ceremony today and once again a special thankyou to all those who have contributed to this project. I would especially like to thank Lisa Mim for her cooperation in allowing us to conduct this ceremony at the kindergarten today.
Renewable Energy Benalla/Benalla Community Energy Project Convenor
25 February 2022
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Banner - launch of REB's Munro Avenue Pre School 'behind the meter' solar panel installation, May 6 '21