Solar support for regional communities at risk from bushfires

solar panels on roof

Jenna Meade

Posted September 02, 2021

Regional Victorian communities at risk from bushfires and extreme weather events are benefitting from a $1 million solar installation program being rolled out across the state.

Following the devastating effects of the 2020 bushfires and the recent storms which left many in the state without power, solar panels are being installed at sporting clubs and recreation centres across the state to transform them into emergency safe places and relief centres during bushfires and other extreme weather events.

RACV has invested $1 million to help 24 regional Victorian towns respond to community needs in the wake of natural disasters, with the funding providing a solar and battery system averaging $43,200. Each installation includes rooftop solar, plus a battery, to provide backup power in case the grid goes down. 

The solar and battery systems are being installed on community halls, sporting grounds and recreation reserves that act as emergency safe places and relief centres during bushfires and other extreme weather events.

The initiative has reached its halfway mark in the two-year program of installations, with completed installations in Omeo, Tallangatta, Wairewa, Wodonga, Goongerah, Clifton Creek, Yea, Aireys Inlet, Calivil, Anglesea, Heathcote and Dederang. Twelve more will follow at sites including Winchelsea, Hamilton, Harrietville, Hawkesdale, Warrnambool, Balmoral and Mirranatwa.

solar panels being installed

Investments in renewables in regional communties is where change happens. Image: Getty. 

Tallangatta Sports Centre’s Peter Haysey says the system equips the town to provide emergency backup power in the event of any future natural disaster. 

“I cannot emphasise enough how important our community buildings are in an extreme weather event,” Haysey says. “During the 2020 bushfires, Rowen Park in Tallangatta provided critical infrastructure to the emergency services. This donation gives us peace of mind that we will still have power to run the facility during an emergency.”

Anglesea Football Netball Club president Jamie McKenzie says as well as being an emergency response, the new additions are also an effective response to emergencies.

“Taking practical steps like this to prepare for extreme weather events is a welcome necessity, and it’s fantastic RACV has the foresight and motivation to do this.”

RACV Solar Chief Executive Andy McCarthy says the program is particularly important as many regions across Victoria are becoming increasingly bushfire prone and vulnerable to more extreme weather events.

“The bushfires of summer 2020 that devastated many regional towns highlighted the importance of energy resilience during a natural disaster,” McCarthy says. “These types of events will only become more frequent, so we need to support our communities with solutions that are fit for purpose. We’re not just putting solar panels on the roof so people can save on electricity. We are providing energy so people will have electricity when they critically need it.”


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