The Solar North East project was a 2 year partnership between seven north east Victorian municipal councils - Alpine Shire Council, Benalla Rural City, Indigo Shire Council, Mansfield Shire Council, Towong Shire Council, Rural City of Wangaratta and Wodonga City. The project was made possible by funding of almost $500,000 from Sustainability Victoria and in-kind support by the participating councils of over $200,000.
The primary object of the project was to enhance the uptake of small-scale solar power within the local community and to increase the level of “energy knowledge” within those communities. A condition of this objective was that the products and services offered needed to be of high quality and accessible to as many people as possible.
We achieved the objectives by conducting a thorough tender process to select a suitably qualified solar provider and finance partner. The project was promoted widely by recruiting part-time project staff based at the participant councils and using the resources of the councils themselves.
The principal contractor was selected through an exhaustive tender process that considered factors such as warranties, servicing, output performance, quality and price. A selected finance partner was able to offer very competitive rates for unsecured loans to increase the accessibility of the program.
We overcame the barriers of trust, lack of knowledge and in many cases, the perception of value by conducting public information sessions and providing access to trained project staff able to offer unbiased advice to ratepayers.
The project was directly responsible for encouraging residents to install nearly 400 solar power systems;
In the process of achieving the figures above, we spoke directly to over 5,000 people at public information sessions, community presentations and sustainability expos across the region. In addition, we lent power monitoring kits to more than 800 households and businesses – these kits remain at councils for use beyond the end of the project.
We have educated and empowered people to understand their electricity bill and given householders the tools to audit their own houses. Participating councils retain the educational collateral produced as part of the project and have the tools to continue to such a service to their ratepayers.
Participating councils installed over 100kW of solar power systems on council owned buildings as part of the project. These systems will serve as a legacy to the project and will be used as demonstration sites complete with real-time monitoring.