Solar-battery system saves lives securing power for Marine Rescue Narooma 


Last week saw the energising of a 6.3 kW solar PV array and a matching 6.3 kWh battery at Marine Rescue Narooma, funded due to the efforts of volunteer organisation Southcoast Health and Sustainability Alliance (SHASA).

The system is designed to augment and expand the essential rescue organisation’s existing Emergency Power facility which provides electricity for wireless communications and maintains lighting in the building during a mains power blackout.

Marine Rescue Narooma is part of a network of coastal guardians that responds to vessels in distress; searches for missing boats; operates the Marine Rescue App, which provides weather warnings and a logging system for vessels heading out and returning to port; and trains volunteers with the skills and knowledge needed to save lives on the water.

Working out of the old Pilot House that overlooks Narooma Inlet and Bar — one of the most tricky to navigate on the east coast — the Narooma crew operates rescue vessel NA30 and two other Rescue Water Craft, as well as the latest radio communications technology.

Marine Rescue Narooma vessel NA30, relies on constant communications to carry out its work.

Image: Marine Rescue Narooma

Its rooftop installation is the third solar PV project in Narooma and the eleventh in the shire facilitated by SHASA, which also runs the Eurobodalla Solar Bulk Buy opportunity in collaboration with Micro Energy Systems Australia (MESA), a local Clean Energy Council-accredited solar installer and retailer which specialises in providing solar equipment suited to the community’s coastal environment.

SHASA for Prime Minister!

SHASA chair, Kathryn Maxwell, says the organisation is “committed to supporting the transition to renewable energy”. Its goal is to see the Eurobodalla coast 100% powered by renewables by 2030.

SHASA’s recently updated strategic plan includes: researching and assisting in the development of community solar farms, microgrids and battery storage; educating home and business owners on the benefits of energy efficiency measures; promoting electric vehicles and e-bikes as a way of reducing transport emissions; and supporting subsidised low-income access to solar power.

SHASA also applies for grants on behalf of community organisations, under various schemes designed to fund solar installations — in the case of Marine RescueNarooma, it successfully applied to the Federal Government’s Community Energy Efficiency and Solar Grants 2020.

Although envisaged in 2020, the project hit a snag in that the roof of the Pilot House was made of corrugated asbestos sheeting, which had to be replaced before the solar panels could be installed.

Helping the underfunded benefit from solar savings

In cases where an organisation has limited funds and grant funding only partially covers the cost of a project, SHASA and MESA have combined their resources to cover the shortfall.

In 2019 it contributed more than $5,000 for the cost of 18 solar panels and an inverter that have helped the local Uniting Church to more comprehensively support the 80 or so people who come to its weekly community lunch in the church hall known as Monty’s Place. Its solar system has saved the charitable “event”  — that serves good food in an atmosphere of good company for people in need — more than $2,000 a year in electricity bills, with those savings readily redeployed to support the provision of services such as Legal Aid and Anglicare.

Other solar installations successfully enabled by SHASA since it was inaugurated in 2014, include a 12.82 kW PV system for Batemans Bay Surf Life Saving Club in Malua Bay, and a 9.45 kW system for Narooma Men’s Shed.

In a release celebrating the Marine Rescue installation, Maxwell asks, “Can volunteer community groups make a difference?” She already knows the answer: “They most definitely can.”

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