Solar hot water systems ready to go

Gippslanders are being encouraged to support local manufacturing and local jobs, by jumping on board a bulk-buy scheme to purchase discount solar systems.

Earth worker Cooperative secretary Dan Musil with one of the solar hot water systems which he built in Morwell. photograph hayley mills

Earth worker Cooperative secretary Dan Musil with one of the solar hot water systems which he built in Morwell. photograph hayley mills

The Gippy Bulk Buys scheme is backed by Latrobe, Baw Baw and Wellington councils, and is being rolled-out by Latrobe Community Power Hub using local manufacturers and installers.

The scheme includes options for roof-top solar panels, batteries, portable solar generators and batteries, as well as solar hot water systems.

Morwell manufacturer Earthworker has been given the green light to supply the hot water systems and will be making the trailers to go with the portable solar generator systems.

Earthworker secretary Dan Musil said he was excited to be a part of the scheme that will help locals reduce their power bills and support the growth of jobs in renewable energy.

"Earthworker is a community-led project to create new community based jobs in the Latrobe Valley," Mr Musil said.

"Earthworker has always sought to create dignified work through environmentally and socially useful industries."

The local worker-owned cooperative began making hot water systems earlier this year, after forming nearly a decade ago when members investigated manufacturing wind turbines for large-scale projects.

Mr Musil said the cooperative had three employees, but hoped this would increase to 50 as more people signed up to the bulk-buys scheme.

He said he aimed for the co-op to start manufacturing and assembling more parts that are being imported.

Latrobe Community Power Hub project officer Chris Barfoot said the scheme would allow people to purchase high-quality, affordable solar systems as well as supporting local industries.

He said a percentage of sales will go towards installing a free solar system at a community organisation, nominated by people signing up to the deal.

Mr Barfoot said pricing depends on what systems people require and all quotes will be tailored to individual household energy needs, so people do not over capitalise.

"We are trying to push the idea of diversifying to renewable industries here in the Latrobe Valley," Mr Barfoot said.

"We are still using all the electrical and welding skills we have here, but it's being put into an industry with a long term future."

Wellington Shire Cr Darren McCubbin said the scheme supported the region's history of power generation.

"We've led Victoria's energy to 100 years and we will lead it into the next 100 years, just with a different energy source using the skill sets that are usable into the future," Cr McCubbin said.

"This has been signed off by three councils, so it's from a trustworthy source, rather than getting called by out-of-town operators offering cheap deals."

A series of information sessions are being held about the scheme.

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