Brookvale will be transformed into Australia’s first Urban Renewable Energy Zone. – essentially its own solar-generated powerhouse – under a new community-led initiative launched this week.
An alliance of environmentalists, local businesses and politicians launched the solar energy drive Powerhouse Brookvale, at 4Pines Truck Bar Brewery in Brookvale on 28 February, initiated by the non-profit renewable energy protagonists, Solar Alliance.
According to Solar Alliance, “Brookvale is already a powerhouse for renewable energy. There are panels on car showrooms, hotels and office blocks, boutique brewers and coffee roasters.
“But there is room for so much more. If we can cover 50% of Brookvale’s suitable roofs we’ll have 70,000 solar panels producing up to 20 megawatts. That’s the size of a small power station.”
The launch, hosted by writer-comedian Craig Reucassel (best known for his work with TV satirists The Chaser), featured guest speakers Zali Steggall, MP for Warringah, and Northern Beaches Council Mayor Michael Regan. The event was attended by over 100 guests, including Deputy Mayor Candy Bingham and Mackellar MP Jason Falinski.
Rob Stokes, the MP for Pittwater and NSW Minister for Infrastructure, Cities and Active Transport, also addressed the gathering via a video link.
Mr Stokes, a former NSW Minister for the Environment, declared, “What an incredibly simple yet important and practical idea: to actually generate the power where it’s used, rather than having power stations miles away using fossil fuels that damage our environment, let alone the scars they leave in terms of mining voids and the rest of it. And the atmospheric pollution is very well known.”
The former Parliamentary Secretary for Renewable Energy added, “Here is a practical way in which we can generate power locally and encourage local investors… to ensure that we can provide the battery storage and provide electric vehicle charging in areas where it’s needed… It’s a powerful, transformative, revolutionary idea, and I’m here to lend my voice, my support, and anything I can do to assist your endeavour. Thanks to everyone involved.”
Craig Reucassel launched the event, stating, “These little bits of community action, where people are getting together and making these changes, are leading the way… Once one group does it, 50 more can follow and actually do something to make a difference.”
First speaker, Zali Steggall, said, “This is a really exciting event… It really is important to stay focused on where we do have the power and the ability to make a difference… It’s clear that we have the opportunity in Brookvale to be the first permanent renewable energy site. I think that it’s something that’s really worth celebrating and I’m so excited it’s happening right here in Warringah. It’s a pivotal time in Australia’s energy transition…
“Obviously for me this is very dear to my heart; with my Climate Change Bills, the key part of them is to measure in planned transition… That’s part of the five steps to net zero. It would be great if the Federal Government could match the efforts of State governments and step up with a transmission fund… We know there are many benefits to renewable energy…”
Ms Steggall’s two Climate Change Bills, which would have committed Australia by law to a target of net zero emissions by 2050, were rejected by a Liberal-dominated committee on 14 July 2021 after they were introduced to the Federal Parliament.
“In Warringah, we currently have 6356 solar installations generating some 37,300 kilowatts of power,” she revealed. “This installation will add almost 20,000kw to that. This empowers businesses, reduces power bills, makes the grid resilient, creates local jobs and importantly, revitalises Brookvale. Powerhouse Brookvale is ging to be a case study for the nation, and it’s great that it has the support of the NSW Govt.”
Climate change affects all
Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan added, “Climate change doesn’t give a fat frog’s fat arse what political persuasion you are, because climate change is real. It’s all our responsibility, whether it’s Liberal, Labor, Greens, Independent, it doesn’t care, it affects all of us.
“Climate change doesn’t give a fat frog’s fat arse what political persuasion you are, because climate change is real.”
“[Northern Beaches] Council set a target in 2019 to get solar on half of our premises, that were suitable, by 2030. We identified 60,000 out of 100,000 premises that were specifically ideal. But we’ve only got less than half of that at the moment. Although our target was to get all 60,000 by 2030, I want 100 percent by 2025, forget 2030!
“We have promised net zero [carbon emissions] by 2050 but we’re actually wanting and we’re putting in place strategies to do this by 2030… We can’t achieve our corporate goals and community targets on our own, so we’re supporting projects like this tonight. We want to get our community onto the net zero journey. This project is a little bit funded [$5,000] by Council through its grants program, but it’s driven by these amazing community volunteers…”
Solar Alliance speakers revealed that the combined rooftop space of the industrial zone of Brookvale is the equivalent of 30 Brookvale Ovals (now called 4Pines Park), which they claimed could generate around 40 megawatts of sun-derived power at peak periods.
Several guests raised serious concerns, including: the complexities of calculating solar energy bills; rebates available for diverting surplus energy to the National Grid; the expiry date of subsidies available for installing solar panels; the challenges facing renters who don’t own the rooves of the premises they occupy upon which to instal solar panels; the longevity of photovoltaic solar receptors; and how low-income people might be able to afford the costs of solar installation.
However, the Solar Alliance ambassadors explained that they were keen and available to advise on installation as well as negotiate with building owners and calculate the best rates for switching to solar. All with no financial gain beyond their ambition of seeing increased usage of renewable energy, especially in the pioneering Brookvale project.
More information on Powerhouse Brookvale: