Solar to power public halls

Toongabbie Mechanics Insitute treasurer Roger Ries and president Bev Goddard are excited the hall will receive free solar panels. photograph michelle slater

Toongabbie Mechanics Insitute treasurer Roger Ries and president Bev Goddard are excited the hall will receive free solar panels. photograph michelle slater

Latrobe Valley community halls and recreation reserves are getting free solar systems thanks to a Victorian government scheme for public buildings.

Energy and environment minister Lily D'Ambrosio was in Moe last week to unveil a list of 30 Latrobe Valley public buildings in line for free panels, solar hot water and solar lighting by June next year.

The Toongabbie Mechanics Institute and recreation reserve were some of the local buildings listed in the roll-out.

Toongabbie Mechanics Institute treasurer Roger Ries said he expected the new solar set-up to slash electricity bills which were putting upward pressure on the rates for hall hire.

He said they had already installed some solar panels at the recreation reserve and reaped the benefits at the hip-pocket, as bills dropped from $700 to $200 over the past summer.

"It's made amazing reductions. It's cheaper for the recreation reserve users and it will make it cheaper for the hall here," Mr Ries said.

He said the 1883 heritage-listed building was used for regular community group meetings as well as birthdays, weddings and other functions.

Mr Ries said the council was going to pull down the mechanics institute in the 1970s due to its poor condition but the community rallied to save it.

It has since had almost $300,000 spent on a revamp of the interior and exterior.

More than 1000 homes and people on low incomes are also eligible for solar systems as part of the $5 million Latrobe Valley Home Energy Upgrade Program.

There have already been more than 800 expressions of interest for the program in which residents and landlords can access up to $4500 worth of solar packages at no cost.

Local businesses Gippsland Solar, Sunny Afternoons and Rocky's Electrical have been engaged for both programs which will create 10 full-time jobs.

Ms D'Ambrosio said the energy upgrades would make a difference to the lives of 1000 vulnerable Gippslanders.

"The energy upgrades and solar installations will not only help bring down energy prices for the Latrobe Valley, they will create local jobs in the renewable energy sector," Ms D'Ambrosio said.

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