May 9th 2008
Milestone for Magnetic solar suburb
"It's worth it just for the learning," was how Magnetic Island's first recipient of solar panels under the Solar Cities project, Ms Lindy King of Nelly Bay, described the impact of having a "smart meter" in her house - a feature of the program which is set to see 500 Magnetic homes fitted with solar panels and retrofitted with energy saving and measuring devices.
"We have all got to do our bit for the Earth by conserving energy and I couldn't normally afford solar panels so I am very glad I was chosen to help the environment, reduce greenhouse gasses and put back power into the grid" said Lindy King.
Minister for Mines and Energy Geoff Wilson was on hand to inspect the photovoltaic (PV) solar system. The Minister said, "This is an iconic project. It shows how communities can harness solar energy and be more energy-efficient in their daily lives."
Lindy King's home is, according to the Minister, "The first in a major roll out of solar systems that will transform Magnetic Island into a solar suburb.
The Townsville: Queensland Solar City consortium will receive up to $15 million from the State Government and its government-owned corporation Ergon Energy, and $15 million through the Federal Government's Solar Cities initiative.
Minister Wilson said the solar suburb would save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by around 50,000 tonnes over the next seven years.
"That's equivalent to taking 1700 cars off the road for the same period," Mr Wilson said.
"Part of the State Government's contribution has helped fund the Nelly Bay Ferry Terminal's solar PV system.
"These days, we're all conscious of the importance of caring for our environment and the use of renewable energy such as solar power, is a responsible and efficient way to go about it.
"People who live and work on Magnetic Island will be helping to create a blueprint for future sustainable energy use," he said.
As part of the trial, Magnetic Island residents and business owners have been invited by project leaders Ergon Energy to host up to 500 PV solar panels - at no personal cost.
(From left) Executive General Manager Corporate Sustainability and Innovation Jim Chisholm, Lisa Nardi (Assistant Director, Solar City Team, Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts), Cr Vern Veitch (Chair, Environment and Sustainable Development Committee, The New Townsville City Council), Manager Solar City Ian Cruickshank, Magnetic Island first residential Solar City PV host Lindy King and the Hon Geoff Wilson MP Minister for Mines and Energy
"The installation was very quick. It took just two days and was no imposition. They even used the existing roof screw holes so there would not be any leaks," said Lindy King.
But Lindy wanted to make it clear that she accepted that the panels would not be making power that was going to save her money off her bill. "I don't get a dollar advantage as it all goes into the grid but in years down the track it may help keep costs down. The panels produce the equivalent of about one third of the energy used in my house"
More than 500 residents and businesses returned an energy use survey and are now registered for a free energy assessment and the opportunity to host solar PV systems on their roof.
Ergon Energy's Executive General Manger Corporate Sustainability and Innovation, Jim Chisholm, said the solar PV system would be installed, owned and serviced by Ergon Energy for the duration of the project, unless the host decided not to continue with the arrangement.
To further measure the impact of the trial on the island's electricity consumption, up to 1700 households and business owners will receive smart meters and in-house displays which will give detailed information about the amount of electricity used and the cost.
Lindy was however more interested, it seemed, in the impact of the smart meter - a little box installed in the house which indicates the household's fluctuating energy usage. "The display really makes you think about what you are doing. Lights (on the box) change to pale lemon then orange and red as you increase (electricity useage). When I boil water in the jug consumption jumped from 0.6 to 1.7 kw. It does both tarrifs and gives a running total all the time," she said.
Lindy isn't sure just yet about how much energy the smart meter and range of energy saving equipment such as low-flow shower heads and compact fluro lights will save her but told Magnetic Times that the Minister himself claimed to have saved $70 off his last power bill.
Anyone interested in hosting a system can contact the local Solar City team in the Nelly Bay Information Centre to arrange for an energy assessment to find out if their roof is suitable.
"Magnetic Islanders' enthusiasm for the project could not have been better," Mr Chisholm said.
"As well as the outstanding response to our survey, we've had an enormous amount of positive feedback on every aspect of the project," he said.
Minister Wilson said Solar Cities was about the community working in partnership with government to help save energy and money.
"I'm delighted that so many people are keen to learn how to conserve energy and save money on their electricity bills.
"The level of interest in what's being done right here on Magnetic Island is commendable," he said.
"The community has climbed on board to such an extent, our all-important environmental and energy conservation goals are well and truly on track," Mr Wilson said.
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