Powering up with renewable energy


As we all become more concerned about the environment and our own energy bills, renewable energy sources such as solar have become quite a topic of conversation.

Sometimes the information from different sources can make the whole idea of ‘going solar’ feel like a mine field.

To help sort out this confusion, Bass Coast Shire Council and Bass Coast Landcare’s Future Homes Program ran its second tour to French Island on 12 December.

French Island, which is ‘off the grid’, is home to many locals who have tried and tested various options for renewable energy and successfully powered their homes for many years.

Residents generously embraced the request for a band of 25 ‘Future Homes’ visitors who wanted to learn more about how to create and store energy.

Two experts accompanied the tour; Trevor Robotham, who has designed and installed many of the systems on French Island, and Brad Shone, who has been working in the field of household renewable energy for many years.

Both Trevor and Brad were invaluable to the participants, answering their questions and turning the ‘mine field’ of information into understandable options.

After disembarking from an enjoyable ferry ride to the Island, the local tour operator and well-known character Lois Airs met the participants with her bus.

She gave everyone a great deal of local information throughout the day and made the trip run smoothly and comfortably.

First stop was the home of long-term residents, Alison Pitt and Jane Unwin, who have not only survived using only solar and wind power – they have thrived!

Trevor, who designed, installed and occasionally does repairs and maintenance on the duel solar/wind system, gave attendees an understanding of the technology that sat behind its success.

The windmill generated the most interest among participants because it was the least understood of the technologies. Trevor explained the simplicity of the system and its great advantage under the circumstances; when the skies are dark and the solar is struggling, the wind is usually blowing!

Alison showed everyone around her house explaining the sustainable aspects whilst Brad provided some great information and answered questions about all sorts of ways people can ensure that the energy they create is kept and used most efficiently in the home.

Next stop was Mike Gearon’s new home, which had been recently filmed for the Grand Designs TV program. Mike shared the story of his build and the design features that will eventually help to lower energy waste, and he and Trevor explained the wind/solar system installed to run this very large house. Mike is not yet living in his new build, so the true test of the system is yet to come, but the beauty of these systems is that they can be adjusted and added to if necessary.

It was not only a day of memorable experiences and new friendships, but an informative day where participants gained a huge amount of knowledge about renewable energy, energy efficiencies and how they can be applied.

If you are a Bass Coast resident you can access free advice about renewable energy options, including what system would suit your house from Positive Charge on (03) 9385 8555. This is a free service offered by Bass Coast Shire Council to assist residents who would like to install renewable energy systems.

The latest in water wise design for homes and gardens is the theme for the next Future Homes Tour on 30 January 2016. To express your interest in the tour, please contact Rosie Scott-Thompson at Bass Coast Landcare Network on 0409 366 914 or rosie.scott-thompson@basscoast.vic.gov.au.