People power funds solar power at Winmalee Neighbourhood Centre

Making a difference: Standing in front of the new plaque, from left, Gary Caganoff (Sun-Kissed Solar), Marnie Tomczyk (BMRenew), Richard Wadick (Westpac), Noni McDevitt (BMRenew), Morna Colbran (Winmalee Neighbourhood Centre).
Making a difference: Standing in front of the new plaque, from left, Gary Caganoff (Sun-Kissed Solar), Marnie Tomczyk (BMRenew), Richard Wadick (Westpac), Noni McDevitt (BMRenew), Morna Colbran (Winmalee Neighbourhood Centre).

The sun shining on Winmalee Neighbourhood Centre is lowering its power bills thanks to community generosity and a bushfire recovery grant.

A fundraising campaign to install solar panels on the centre raised over $3500 through crowd-funding with a further $4000 from Westpac Banks’ Natural Disaster Recovery Fund.

Michael Skeggs, Chair of the Blue Mountains Renewable Energy Co-operative (BMRenew) that initiated and oversaw the project, said the 4.5kW solar system is expected to reduce the neighbourhood centre’s electricity costs by about $900 per year.

“We are delighted that the community and business have both contributed to this project that makes a very practical contribution to the neighbourhood centre while reducing reliance on fossil fuels,” he said.

Morna Colbran, manager of Winmalee Neighbourhood Centre, said the money saved on power bills would be put to good use. 

“It will be spent on critical community services for people needing help in Winmalee, Yellow Rock and Hawkesbury Heights, including our ongoing bushfire recovery assistance in the wake of the 2013 fires.”

Westpac Springwood Bank manager Richard Wadick said: “This is a great outcome from a relatively small investment with long term benefits for our community.”

Mr Skeggs said that BMRenew is now exploring a similar project for the Mid Mountains Neighbourhood Centre in Lawson .

“BMRenew is a voluntary group that seeks to increase Blue Mountains prosperity, energy security and sustainability by expanding community ownership and access to renewable energy,” he said.

The Winmalee solar system was installed by Katoomba-based business Sun-Kissed Solar.