Exciting new solar power installation in Newcastle.

Solar Rainbow

We left the Inner West last Friday (it does happen!) for a visit to Newcastle… and we’re pleased to report that while Newcastle may still be the world’s biggest coal export port, we came upon, by chance, a bunch of people there working towards the transition to clean energy.

We ran into solar installer Rod Clark from Solar Power Australia, part of the team installing 50 kilowatts of solar PV on a car park canopy at what’s known as the No. 2 Sportsground in inner-city Newcastle, a project of Newcastle City Council. 

Note that 50kw is a big solar PV system – about 10 times the size of systems we’re now typically facilitating on the roofs of Inner West houses. 

Rod from Solar Power Australia

As you can see, this is not just a solar PV canopy. That’s Rod standing next to one of three electric vehicles chargers that are part of the system. And there’s battery storage too. 

When you investigate where this innovation and equipment is coming from, and who’s installing it, you can understand why the transition to clean energy offers so many local, skilled jobs. 

The PV and batteries are being installed by Rod’s firm, Solar Power Australia, based in Cardiff in suburban Newcastle. 

The charge points were installed by Novocastrian Electrical. 

The steel canopies were designed and built by Power Park Systems, who are based in Tuggerah on the Central Coast, and the charge points were designed and manufactured by Tritium from Murarrie, in Brisbane’s eastern suburbs, a company that grew out of solar car racing at the University of Queensland.. 

Congratulations to Newcastle City Council for this landmark project. 

We hope it won’t be too long before we see a few of these across the Inner West. 

  • Gavin Gilchrist

PS Don’t forget, if you’re interested in having solar PV installed on your house, our next Solar Information Night is next Monday, July 15, at 7pm at the Rose of Australia hotel in Erskineville. Bookings via our FaceBook Events page.

Gavin Gilchrist

0407 663 125

Making solar power a priority

New Solar at Five Dock
Maria Cirillo and Steve Turner

For most Australians moving into a new home, putting solar on the roof is not the number 1 priority. Generally, the cost of moving house leaves households with little spare cash for things that are not needed right now.

Not so for Maria Cirillo and Steve Turner, who moved into their new Five Dock home with their four kids just six weeks ago. 

Even though they’re still unpacking removal boxes, the solar PV system went up late last week through Inner West Community Energy. 

Steve had a small, 1.5 kilowatt, PV system at his last house so he knew the benefits of solar on the roof. 

“That system, even though it was expensive in those days, paid for itself in about seven years,” Steve told us. “And so I’ve seen the  benefits of solar. And with the decreases in costs and the increases in technology, and the ability of solar, I knew the benefits of putting it on here. And so I started planning it from the moment I knew we were going to move.” 

When you see the financial benefits for this big family, you can understand why Steve and Maria put solar in the moving budget from the start. They now have a 6.82 kilowatt system, with 22 QCells panels powering the house through a Fronius Primo 5 kilowatt inverter. It’s estimated the system will cut their power bills by around 70%, so the whole system will pay for itself in only four and a half years. 

Just as importantly, their family’s contribution to the global climate emergency is that their solar panels will avoid burning 3.2 tonnes of coal in NSW power stations. 

Their new home, the first PV system in Five Dock that Inner West Community Energy has facilitated, could not be more perfect for solar: new roof, no shade, faces north. 

Maria, a former deputy director of Solar Citizens, told us – yes, without prompting! – that the work our group’s doing is important because we’re helping inner westies with what can be a difficult decision.  

“Not everyone talks in gigawatts or kilowatts,” Maria said. “People pay attention to their electricity bill but not to what it is that drains the most or what’s going to be the best for them, whereas what you guys do is really, really helpful. It helps to demystify a really complicated process.”

Steve added: “It was great having someone you can trust say ‘this is a good quote for these reasons’. It  gave me a lot of confidence to know you can buy the system because someone who knows has gone through the quote and said tick tick tick.”

If we can help you install solar at your home in the Inner West, our next Solar Information night is in two weeks, on Monday, July 15 at 7pm at the Rose of Australia pub, Erskineville. 

It’ll be a lively, informative evening. Our guest speaker will be Nicky Ison, one of Australia’s leading commentators on renewables and the climate crisis. 

Bookings via our Events page here.

Thanks to our installer Paul Hutt of Brightside Solar and Electrical for the stunning drone shots of Maria and Steve’s new system.

  • Gavin Gilchrist
  • Project Manager 
  • 0407 663 125

People power drives Aussie solar.

New solar in Five Dock

A new report today from the respected analysts Bloomberg New Energy Finance has forecast that a “people-powered revolution” is going to drive the amount of rooftop solar PV in Australia from 10,000 megawatts at the end of this year to 38,000 megawatts by 2030.

That amount of solar in 2030 would be a 57 per cent share of Australia’s electricity generation capacity.

And it says the increase will continue well past 2030, rising to 61,000 megawatts of capacity by 2050, or 84% of Australia’s electricity generation capacity. .

(If you wondering what a “megawatt” is, a big coal-fired power station is around 2,500 megawatts in capacity.)

These are two key findings from the annual New Energy Outlook that this group does. It’s the result of eight months’ analysis from a 65-strong team.

So that’s the good news at a national level.

Here in the Inner West, we still have a long way to go to reach the amount of rooftop solar seen already in many suburbs of Sydney and across regional NSW.

That’s what Inner West Community Energy is working hard to address. Our 36th system is being installed tomorrow and on Friday in Five Dock, our first in that suburb.

If you’re keen to find out how you can install solar PV on your house, our next Solar Information Night is on July 15 at the Rose of Australia hotel in Erskineville, starting at 7pm.

Book via our Events page on Facebook.

More on the Bloomberg report can be seen here at the Renew Economy website:

  • Gavin Gilchrist
  • Project Manager
  • 0407 663 125

Reduce Your Power Bill with Renewable Energy

It’s almost the start of a new financial year, so it’s that time when we get an unpleasant surprise from energy companies because this is the time they often put up their prices.

And so it is with our good friends AGL. I’ve just got a friendly letter from them advising me the price is going up. I suspect other gas companies will be doing the same.

In my case, a typical residential gas user in the Inner West, my gas price for the first block of gas consumed is going up 7.9%. For the next block, it’s going up by a lesser amount, 2.2%.

(This means people who are frugal in their gas use, such as pensioners living alone, will pay the highest increase. Is that fair?)

And the daily supply charge is going up 3.1%.

Inner West solar households should be doing everything they can to use the power they generate on their roofs from the sun, to cut carbon emissions and save money.

Here’s one idea to cut gas use.

Most Inner West homes have gas cook tops with either gas ovens or electric ovens.

Switching from a gas cook top to a new super-efficient induction cook top would save money and the carbon emissions from burning gas, which is a fossil fuel.

But induction cooktops are not cheap. They seem to retail from around $700 and can run into thousands, even without the installation cost.

Here’s one answer. In January I bought this “Tillreda” portable induction plate from Ikea for $49. It’s fantastic. My gas use has dropped markedly compared with the same time last year.

The unit is compact and lightweight, incredibly fast to heat up, and the temperature control is very fine. You’d be surprised how many meals you can cook with just one hotplate.

With a portable induction cook top, you can take one more step towards being a 100% renewable energy home.

Gavin Gilchrist, Project Manager,

0407 663 125

More Annandale Solar

Rooftop Solar PV for Leslie and Scott of Annandale

Leslie Solar and Keith March of Annandale had been thinking about installing solar PV for five years, since their renovations were completed. But they weren’t sure if they were going to stay in the house or downsize until early this year, when they decided to stay put.

So that meant it was time to go solar. Time to contact Inner West Community Energy.

Even though she’s the co-owner and manager of their high-end residential building company, Keith March Constructions, Leslie found it “enormously useful for me to have a knowledgeable community that I could trust”.

“To have you explain things in a basic way, even though I’m in the industry,” Leslie told us. “It’s complicated and it’s hard to get your head around when you don’t understand it. So the fact that you were available and knowledgeable and easy to understand made an enormous difference and having you gave me confidence in the people you recommended.

“I got an independent quote too, because that’s what we do, and I was incredibly impressed by Paul [Hutt, of Brightside Solar and Electrical, an Inner West Community Energy solar installer] as a young tradesman. And we deal with tradies every day of the week. He was neat, tidy, turned up when he said, easy to get on with, again, comprehensible. The price was great. I just thought he was terrific.

“We got a quote from another guy who didn’t even show up. He did it off Google Earth and gave us a general quote. And then he was amazed when I said I didn’t want to do it and I said I thought it was a bit odd that he hadn’t turned up. You need that face-to-face contact.

“I thought having this group was fantastic.”

Keith’s brother is a solar installer so Keith got a few tips on what to look out for in a solar installation. “He was telling me about the strapping off of cables and the tying-off of things and how messy you can leave it,” Keith told us. “And I climbed up there and it was a really neat and organised job.”

Keith and Leslie have a 5.89 kilowatt system comprising 19 Q Cells panels, each 310 watts maximum capacity, with a Solar Edge inverter and 19 optimisers to boost generation when some panels are shaded by nearby trees, plus there’s Solar Analytics to monitor production and generation.

The job was completed in March and now they’re waiting for their first post-solar power bill, when they’ll again turn to Inner West for our advice on the best offer they can get from an electricity retailer.

Leslie and Keith live on a corner block. Across the road there’s another Inner West solar system, and on another corner there’s another new system we had nothing to do with. We just need to do one more and every house on that intersection will be solar powered.

When it is, we’ll get Paul’s drone in the air for some cool shots!

  • Gavin Gilchrist 0407 663 125

100% Renewables is Doable!

Repower workshop group

“100% renewables is 100% doable!” That’s the message five of us from Inner West Community Energy took home loud and clear yesterday after spending the day at UTS learning how to be a Repowering Australia public speaker.

So if you can pull together at least a dozen or so people at work, or a bunch of friends, or people from your football club, services club, choir, mother’s group, whatever, who want to hear a 20 minute talk on how Australia can shift to 100% renewables, Inner West Community Energy can provide the speaker.

Inner West Community Energy chairperson Kathy Bluff, management committee members Susie Coates and Ben Slee, supporter Penny Biggins and I have now been trained on the Repowering Australia campaign.

We can deliver a 20 minute talk, with slides, covering why the shift to renewables is inevitable, how it’s completely realistic, who’s working to stop it, and what we can all do to make it happen.

The best way to think about this is to recall how, a few years back, former US vice president Al Gore went around the world training people how to present his An Inconvenient Truth slideshow. The Repowering Australia campaign is the same idea: train community members on how to give a standard presentation then send them out into the community to do it.

(As it happens, Al Gore will be back in Australia later this week, in Brisbane, doing a fresh round of climate leadership training.)

Yesterday’s training was led by ever-ebullient Nicky Ison, co-founder of the Community Power Agency, and supported by Liz Noble. It was a fantastic day! Try as we might, the group could not find a question NIcky couldn’t answer!

After a federal election result that was such a setback for those supporting action on climate and a just transition to 100% renewables, we all found it heartening to meet a bunch of positive, enthusiastic people wanting to be trained. They came from Brisbane, Maitland, Newcastle and Sydney hungry to learn how to give the talk and spread the 100% renewables word: Famia, Nick, Alicia, Jaz, Jan, Thelma, Belinda, Ella, Natasha and John. As well as the five of us from the Inner West, of course.

If you want us to present the Repowering Australia talk, contact us via the website.

More on the Repower Australia campaign at