Solar New England Region

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Breaking News: NSW Rebate Reduced without Warning

The NSW Government rebate for converting electric to solar hot water was unexpectedly and suddenly changed on 15 January 2010. The rebate is now a maximum of $300. Conditions apply and the full details can be read here.

Please note that we are working right now to update the below information which is out of date in this regard.

The reduced rebate will be disappointing for the many residents wanting to go solar and who missed out on the previous $800 being offered. At the same time this change without warning reinforces just how fleeting these rebates and incentives can be.

The key message from all of this is Act Now if you wish to take advantage of the incentives that are still on offer - an Australian Government rebate, the NSW rebate and renewable energy credits!!

The urgency of these opportunities is one of the very reasons why the New England Sustainability Strategy created this solar hot water community initiative - to accelerate and increase our community's access to these valuable, though limited, incentives. This urgency is further heightened by the fact that over the next few years the phase out of electric hot water systems will become law. [See the Australian Government website for full details].

ACT NOW: Stage II Solar Hot Water Offer


New England residents (Armidale, Walcha, Guyra and Uralla) are invited to sign up for a highly affordable and high quality Solar Hot Water System. The Stage II Offer is limited to the next 100 residents who will get a fully installed Solar Hot Water System valued at $7,510 from a super low $2,670^ - nearly one-third below the normal retail price. The System includes a basic installation^^ and an energy saving 'Future Switch' to handle electrical items that use up power in standby mode.

Sign up here.

The Solar Hot Water Offer is the second major initiative of the New England Sustainability Strategy (NESS), following the highly successful Solar Power System Offer.

The Solar Hot Water System is built to exceptionally high quality standards and is designed especially to work well in the tablelands environment. Some key reasons we chose this system are:

  • Efficient Evacuated Tube technology, designed to perform well in cold climates and tested to -15ºC
  • 315L highly insulated Marine-grade Stainless Steel Tank
  • Solar collector with 30 Evacuated Tubes, manifold and standard stainless steel frame
  • High impact resistant Borosilicate Glass, certified hail resistant to Australian Standards
  • 10 years warranty on all major components
  • Fully installed by qualified tradespeople
  • Bonus Future Switch energy saving device

Converting to solar hot water is widely recognised as one of the best environmental measures for your home, as heating water is usually one of the most energy intensive items in your home. Installing a high quality solar hot water system can give you significant energy cost savings - ranging from $300-$700 every year and upwards**.

The highly affordable price is achieved through the power of community and partnerships: by clustering together installations, buying in bulk and by working with local organisations and networks to promote the project. A minimum of 50 systems need to be ordered and installed in each 'cluster' from the Region to get these low prices so we will all benefit from you organising your friends, family, neighbours and work mates to help us achieve this goal.

To sign up or find out more details about the Solar Hot Water System Offer at $2,670^ go now to Endless Solar or contact Liz Gardiner on (02) 6778-7249 or email moc.liamtoh|1renidragzil#moc.liamtoh|1renidragzil.

Please note:
^ Price assumes all government rebates and incentives apply and is for a standard installation within 15kms of the centre of Armidale, Guyra, Walcha or Uralla or as part of a 'mini cluster' of 5 homes within 5kms of each other. Other conditions apply. See for all details, terms and conditions.
^^ Basic installation includes components, fittings and labour for installation as well asreplacement and removal of the existing electric tank. Elegibility Criteria Apply. As each home is different the actual installation cost, including any variations to the eligibility criteria, will be confirmed in a fixed price quote following the site inspection by the plumber.
** Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts 2009.

PS Please forward this web link to family, friends and networks to help us achieve the minimum 50 orders needed for each cluster.

More information about the Solar Hot Water System:

Application Process
Frequently Asked Questions
Project Overview



Congratulations to all the New England homeowners who successfully applied for their $8,000 solar power rebate.

While we knew the scheme would officially end by 30 June we always expected it might end sooner. The reason for this swift action is massive level of applications - including ours!! There are currently more than 63,000 applications in the pipeline that will be progressively installed over the next nine months or so.

The Solar New England Region Project is likely to result in double to triple the amount of grid connected residential solar power in the New England Region. We are now working on the final numbers of rebates actually approved and will report that shortly.

Unfortunately, we know too that many residents will have missed out because their rebate paperwork was not completed in time.

Our focus now is following through all completed rebate applications and installations - which as you know began in earnest a month ago.

The other next step from here will be to consider the details of the new Solar Credits incentive scheme which the Australian Government advise will be announced very shortly. So too the anticipated feed in tariff scheme by the NSW Government. The detail of both these incentives will be central to our ability to further progress of a vision for the New England to become a Solar Region.

Finally, it is useful to reiterate that the solar hot water rebates and incentives (detailed above) are ongoing and not affected by today's announcements.

For more details contact Adam Blakester on 02 6775 2501 or 0419 808 900 or ten.yalpmgidarap|mada#ten.yalpmgidarap|mada.

More information about the Solar Power System:

Solar System Details

About the Solar New England Region Project

The Solar New England Region Project is based on a 'community cluster' model, which means:

  • “clusters” of solar systems are purchased and installed together to achieve large scale, highly affordable domestic solar power systems; and,
  • “community” networks, organisations and professionals work together to promote the project by word of mouth and contribute key services making the end product to householders highly affordable.

The Solar New England Region Project is the first major initiative coming out of the New England Sustainability Strategy. The New England Sustainability Strategy Executive (NESSiE) received a proposal from AusEnergy to consider a community cluster solar installation project after they observed the high profile of sustainability issues in the New England, and the likely community interest in such an offering.

Endless Solar
Endless Solar is committed to delivering the best renewable energy technologies to help meet Australia's daily energy needs by providing a range of world-class and highly cost-effective solar hot water solutions that deliver major cuts in energy use and in greenhouse emissions!
Endless Solar's role is to administer the Solar Hot Water Systems, organise local training courses and actively seeks the co operation of the region's industry and tradespeople for all installation work.

Ausenergy is a small and independent company which organises small to large-scale regional renewable energy projects.
AusEnergy's role is to administer the Solar Power Systems, organise local training courses and actively seeks the co operation of the region's industry and tradespeople for all installation work.

New England Credit Union
The New England Credit Union (NECU) are the Official Finance Partner for the Solar New England Region Project. NECU have launched a "Solar Loan" enabling new and existing members to purchase solar power systems with easy repayment plans. The Solar Loan allows for the use of government rebates which can be credited to the loan or used for other ‘green’ purposes.

TAFE New England Institute
TAFE are providing facilities for the local training and offered to local industry, tradespeople and apprentices to gain qualifications relevant to handling the installation work and towards becoming fully accredited to work with solar systems.

Southern New England Landcare
Southern New England Landcare are a Community Partner and founding member of the New England Sustainability Strategy Executive. SNELCC's role includes member promotion and support for 'mini-clusters' in rural and remote areas and research into regeneration regeneration projects to ensure the environmental and climate neutrality of the Solar New England Region Project.

G.J. Gardner Homes, New England
G.J. Gardner Homes has over 25,000 homes worth of experience with a reputation for building quality homes on time and on budget. Today, there are more than 85 G.J. Gardner Homes building franchises operating throughout Australia and New Zealand, Germany, South Africa and America, supported by 10 Master Franchises.

Talloires Declaration, UNE
This purpose of the Talloires Declaration Committee is to build capacity and commitment at UNE in order to enhance environmental literacy and to achieve greater environmental sustainability by implementing the Talloires Declaration.

ParadigmPlay is a freelance social change consultancy network led by local resident Adam Blakester.
ParadigmPlay is responsible for regional coordination of the Project.

More information about the Solar Region Project:

Armidale Indpendent Coverage of Quadrupling of Solar Power
iPrime News Coverage of Armidale Launch
Media Release for Launch of Solar Region Project

More Project Information Below

Solar Hot Water Project

Several local groups and networks have been working on a solar hot water group buy, or community cluster, for some time.

Three solar hot water companies and suppliers were identified as leaders in the Region and invited to provide proposals for the New England Sustainability Strategy. One supplier was unable to submit a proposal due to conflicts between their business model and the community cluster requirements. Of the two proposals received the Endless Solar package and partnership was a standout choice. The other proposal was was inferior on two fronts: lower quality system not suited to our conditions (flat panel technology) and higher cost to residents.

Solar Power Project

This Project has now begun (refer information about Pre-Launch above).

Following are the details from the preliminary meeting of key stakeholders was held on Monday 3 November 2008 at Uralla Shire Council to discuss making the New England a "Solar Region".

Keen interest was expressed in further investigating a 'whole of community' regional model of offering domestic solar systems to New England Residents for less than half the normal retail price. NESSiE were approached by AusEnergy during the build up to the New England Sustainability Forum. AusEnergy had observed the significant community activity around climate change and sustainability in the Region and felt it may be prime for the implementation of this community model.

NESSiE would like to thank Uralla Shire Council for generous support in hosting this meeting.

The summary of the discussions from the meeting follow below.

Peter Bloomfield - land holder, interest in solar/sustainable energy and architecture
Patsy Asch - founder of Sustainable Living Armidale, interest in passive solar design, Energy Group (part of SLA) working on modest projects and regional possibilities
Mahalath Halperin - holistic architecture, ISES, ANZSES, CANA and CAN, interest in PVs and Solar HWS
Joc Coventry - agriculture and retail, involved with SLEx and SLA
Jo Leoni - member of SLA and Energy Group, interest in sustainability
John Johnson - interest in solar and why such a slow take up, looking at PVs on roof, electric cars (Australian Transport Museum), SLA and Energy Group, wonder about BASIX
Jack Arnold - built passive solar house 35 years ago, industrial development in Uralla and want to encourage solar, member of SLA, interest in electric vehicles too
Mike Brooks - stand alone solar house, ADC ozone plant (high energy) - potential for offset/renewables (mini hydro)
Euan Belson - Armidale Dumaresq Environmental Health Manager, SLEx presenter on renewable energy and rebates, Domestic Energy Working Party, energy most significant issue for NER, interest in the 'doing', making it happen, looking at options
Alex Pawlow - DSRD, looking at today to learn
Warren Sellings - Manager of Building & Environmental Services Uralla Shire, observer today
Richard Croft - interest in solar, commercial viability lacking, farmer groups representative, timber not becoming commercial due to skewed market, looking at carbon sequestration, alternative sources of power (solar, biogen)
Robert Spreadborough - designed solar systems (Lawn Hill NP), Deputy Mayor Uralla, Electrical contractor (heavy industrial, mining), Alternative energy is a key issue - solar, waste heat, newer technology (sliver, organic voltaics). Need to alleviate our carbon footprint, LED lighting systems, Uralla could buy in builk, best PV for here and organise installs. Note that higher power costs are coming with carbon taxes.
Adam Blakester - convenor of New England Sustainability Strategy, leading issue and strategic focus is 'future of energy' including solar and other renewable sources.

AusEnergy Presentation - Key Points

  • Regional community clustering enables affordable costs for 1kW solar systems
  • Proposed package includes Wattson energy metering system which can be integrated to a web portal for the New England Region showing solar power produced/used
  • Uncertain how long Australian Government rebate ($8,000) will continue (as heavily oversubscribed) so window of opportunity might be short
  • Community cluster pricing around $2k fully installed, with metering compared with standard pricing of $6-8k (this is based upon being entitled to Australian Government rebate and on selling Renewable Energy Credits)
  • Payback period on this investment - based on saved energy costs - is only 5-6 years, with 20 years of warrantied solar power still to run
  • AusEnergy have demonstrated value of community clustering and proven administrative systems in Beaudesert demonstration project
  • Goal is 400 systems - 1% of residents of NESAC region - however installations can occur in lots of 20-50 each time deposits are made

Matters Raised during AusEnergy Presentation

  • What about low cost/green loans? Rumoured $10k low interest/zero interest green loans are coming next year.
  • What are options for low income households?
  • Could Uralla be a 'model' for future community solar projects?
  • What about central installation of solar for multiple users? Point made this would not qualify for rebate.
  • Discussion of sale of RECs vs environmental benefit. Point made that this should be a clearly articulated and explained option for householders, encouraging them to not sell their RECs (and so require commercial enterprises to generate more renewable energy)
  • What about qualified installers in Region? TAFE have been approached to provide accreditation
  • Other community projects mentioned including Towong Council, VIC (Zen) and Lismore
  • Point made that local government/council trust/involvement is key for this project
  • Australian Government support for energy audits are likely next year. Point was made that energy audits should be the first step before installing solar system as reducing demand is a key step
  • Set criteria for the community package is key
  • Possible role for local government is promotion (NSW Government may have grants available to promote this kind of project, like was the case for the ceiling insulation campaign done by ADC)
  • There is uncertainty about how long the Australian Government rebate will continue - end of financial year (30 June 2009) is consensus end point
  • Solar HWS would be an ideal community project as well

Matters for Action

  • Identify breakdown of NER energy/CO2 footprint

(Editor added link, see )

  • Seek NESAC initiative/support as ideal
  • Seek formal presentation to Uralla Council
  • Set up a NECU/Trust Account for all financial matters to ensure accountability
  • Verify Country Energy conditions
  • Clearly document the project model
  • Identify and seek partnerships (TAFE, NESAC, SLA, etc)
  • Find the electricians and installers and arrange accreditation
  • Integrate energy auditing
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