Weekend read: Solar panels bringing solace to communities hit hard by Black Summer Bushfires


While the run up to this summer has been a wet one, Australians have not quickly forgotten the Black Summer Bushfires of 2019-2020, with many of those affected still dealing with the consequences.

In the fallout, Norway-headquartered REC Group teamed up with local partners as part of a relief program called REConstruct which aims to give those communities hit by the widespread fires access to solar power to save money on their electricity bills.

In total, the REConstruct Initiative installed 15 solar systems comprising 6.5kW each of Alpha solar panel output.

One such affected community was Clifton Creek in East Victoria. The Clifton Creek Primary School was burnt to the ground during the East Gippsland bushfires, but has now been completely rebuilt and is now sporting some fresh new solar panels as a finishing touch.

Clifton Creek Primary School was destroyed by the East Gippsland fires.

Image: REC Group

“We’ve been really fortunate in that REConstruct has donated an amazing solar panel system to our school,” said Clifton Creek Primary School principal Sue Paul. “We will hopefully work towards zero emissions, which is the goal not just of our school but also of our community as there is no doubt the bushfires were caused by climate change…Having solar panels on our school was something we didn’t think we would have the funds to do, so having it donated was just massive.”

Another gracious recipient was the township of Tintaldra on the east Victorian banks of the Murray River. Tintaldra lost power for two weeks during the Black Summer Bushfires and the residents, who were unable refrigerate food or charge their electronics to communicate with the outside world, survived on food donations from the greater Australian public.

Tintaldra is just one of many communities whose vulnerability to being cut off from the power network was exposed by the extensive bushfires. But now the Tintaldra Public Hall is being fitted out with REC solar panels the community will have some independence going forward. As Tintaldra volunteer Ian Cesa said, “The dire situation caused by the power outages resulting from the 2020 bushfires galvanised the Tintaldra community around doing something to prepare for the future. The generous grant provided by REConstruct was the first tangible step toward that future.”

Another impacted area, Balmoral Village in New South Wales, also benefited from the program. With Balmoral Village Association president Elizabeth Atkin saying its newly installed solar panels and battery are running the similarly donated roof sprinklers for future fire protection.

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