Synergy community fund spreads more solar love


Synergy, Western Australia’s government-owned energy generator and retailer, is calling for applications to its 2021 Synergy Community Solar Fund, which has been a glowing example of how solar on the roof can avoid electricity costs and free up cash for vital services.

The Fund is now in its fourth year, and in 2021 is offering a total of 30 kW of solar and energy efficiency audits — at a combined value of $40,000 — to community groups, charities and not-for-profit organisations with premises in the South West Interconnected System, and which do not already have solar installed.

A 2020 fund recipient, Second Harvest, which provides food relief to people in need, had a 3.85 kW system, sized for its energy use profile, installed just a few months ago, which is anticipated to save the organisation around $1,080 a year — money that will instead be spent on providing a broader selection of staple foods in greater quantities for purchase at much reduced prices for people experiencing financial difficulty.

At Second Harvest, a Western Australian organisation that has provided food relief to people in need since 1982, electricity savings enabled by rooftop solar will broaden its menu and grow the number of people it’s able to assist.

Image: Second Harvest

Native Animal Rescue which operates in Malaga in Perth’s northern suburbs had a 14.26 kW system installed on 27 August 2019 under the auspices of the Fund, and has since saved $4,417.42 on energy bills, according to Synergy.

Most importantly, these savings have enabled the rescue organisation, which takes in more than 3,000 sick, injured, orphaned or displaced creatures each year — to provide effective heating for a room that houses injured or orphaned birds and reptiles in particular. Previously, Native Animal Rescue could only afford a heating globe/lamp for the purpose, but the increased capability conferred by its renewable rooftop PV resource has allowed it to care for more animals and a wider range of species.

The Fund helps a minimum of two organisations plug into solar each year, but 2020 saw six systems awarded, including to Communicare, which provides a range of family, education, employment and legal services to the West Australian community; Foothills Information Referral Services in the city of Kalamunda; Claremont Therapeutic Riding Centre, which provides therapeutic and learning experiences through horse riding for people with disabilities; and the Spare Parts Puppet Theatre in Fremantle, a performance company dedicated to furthering the creative possibilities of the puppetry art form.

“We are proud of the benefits the Synergy Community Solar Fund has delivered so far,” said the gentailer’s Chief Executive Officer, Jason Waters, in a statement that reported a total of 16 charities have so far received more than 250 kW of solar capacity from the Fund — which has enabled a collective saving on energy bills of some $81,000.

Waters said that aside from helping not-for-profit organisations free up cash for reinvestment in the services they provide, the Fund also contributes to “a better understanding of sustainable energy use”, in the community, “and the role solar can play in this journey”.

The size of awarded systems is determined according to the consumption profile of each entity, with the maximum system size of any award capped at 20 kW, and installation preceded by an energy efficiency audit.

Applications for the 2021 Synergy Community Solar Fund will be accepted until midnight on Sunday 2 May this year, with winners announced in the second half of 2021.





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