Author: Liam Taylor
A community-led energy revolution is taking place at the Old Beechworth Gaol in north-east Victoria as the region’s first solar energy network goes live. Energy provider Indigo Power has partnered with the local community in Beechworth in kitting out the former prison with 89 community-owned solar panels.
Localised solar energy networks allow site owners and operators to access clean energy at reduced rates without having to buy or maintain the infrastructure at their own expense. The 89-panel solar system implemented at the Old Beechworth gaol has a 30-kilowatt capacity, enough to deliver approximately 55 percent of the site’s total energy requirements.
Indigo Power will initially sell energy generated by the solar grid back to the former jail (now cultural site) at a reduced rate until investment costs have been recovered. Once investment costs have been recovered, estimated to be around 10 years, Indigo Power will then hand over the system to the site owners, who will then benefit from free clean energy generated by the grid for the remainder of the system’s life.
"It's great to be able to bring this model, that's been developed elsewhere, to Victoria," Ben McGowan, Indigo Power Manager, told ABC News.
"It makes a lot of sense, in that the community can come together and buy shares, offset that upfront capital cost, get the solar panels on the roof, deliver an immediate electricity saving for the host site while recovering the capital costs and then pass the system on.
Old Beechworth Gaol is perhaps most famous for its association with Ned Kelly, Australia’s most famous outlaw, and his family. In 2016, a community consortium purchased the heritage site with view to transforming it into a community space for the social and economic benefit of the region.
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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.
Liam is Planet Ark's Communications Coordinator. Prior to joining Planet Ark Liam spent his time studying global environmental issues, travelling Southeast Asia on the cheap and working for a sustainable property management company in Bali, Indonesia.
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