The sun shines on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, but can it shine for them?


The sun shines so brightly on Sydney’s Northern Beaches that some of its residents think it shines on them in particular. This is ironic considering the relatively low uptake of residential solar on the ‘insular peninsula’. Thankfully, the Northern Beaches Council knows that it is the peninsula itself which is so blessed, hence why it has set itself the goal of having 50% of its suitable sites powered by solar by 2030. 

Council took a significant step toward that goal this week with the installation of its largest solar system so far, a 265 kW array atop the Andrew ‘Boy’ Charlton Aquatic Centre at Manly. This install has doubled the Council’s solar capacity and brings its Charge Ahead program beyond the 400 kW mark with solar now featuring on seven Council sites. 

Such other installations include a 50 kW system at Glen Street Library in Frenchs Forest, a 20 kW system at Manly Senior Citizens Centre, a 15 kW system as Harbourview Children’s Centre, a 10 kW system at Kangaroo Street Children’s Centre, and additional 20 kW systems at Boondah Depot and Belrose Children’s Centre. 

The 265 kW rooftop system will offset almost 25% of the aquatic centre’s grid demand, a significant saving for the facility which is planning to reopen on the 1st of September after closure in line with Covid-19 restrictions. 

Like the famous coastline itself, the people of the Northern Beaches divide themselves between sand and surf. Swimming is central to life on the peninsula, and the Andrew ‘Boy’ Charlton pool is a hub for big closed water swimming events and fitness classes for all ages. 

Andrew ‘Boy’ Charlton himself grew up in Manly, a member of North Steyne Surf Life Saving Club before going on to win gold in the 1500 m freestyle at the 1924 Paris Olympics. 

Solar Uptake 

Northern Beaches Council is hoping the demonstration of solar benefits will help encourage more of peninsula residents to join in the renewable revolution. For despite obvious natural solar blessings, less than 14% of compatible homes throughout the Northern Beaches have solar installed. 

However, attitudes on the Northern Beaches are changing, and more people are concerned with their environmental footprint. Evidence of this change includes the election of Independent MP Zali Steggall to the Warringah seat over long-serving former Prime Minister, raw onion eater, and carbon-tax killer Tony Abbott. One of Steggall’s key policy points is her Climate Change Act. Steggall hopes moderate Liberal party members will cross the floor in a conscience vote in favour of legislating a national net-zero emissions target for 2050. 

Moreover, in a webinar series called ‘Sustainability for your Home’ hosted earlier this month by the Northern Beaches Council, over 100 local residents tuned in and voiced their intention to install solar and home energy storage, saying that they wanted to reduce their emissions, save money, and become self-sufficient. 

Apparently, one of the key barriers to solar uptake on the Northern Beaches is the perception that solar is an expensive prospect. This perception would be galling enough if the Northern Beaches wasn’t one of the nation’s wealthiest areas, but it is even more galling for the fact that it is false. According to the Alternative Technology Association in 2018, a 5kW solar PV system in Sydney will have a payback period of 4-5 years, a period that has shortened in intervening years. 

The Australian PV Institute says that the average Northern Beaches household can make a saving of on average $1,138 a year through the use of solar. 

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