Community is an amazing thing! When Mosman Council decided to restart its arts and crafts market (after a COVID hiatus) a team of ZESN volunteers sprang into action to organise a stall. As well as a range of information brochures, we had three electric cars on display across the day, electric bikes available to try out, a variable speed pool pump and demonstrations of house energy audit kit. HUGE THANKS to everyone who worked so hard, and to Mosman Council for their ongoing support and encouragement. 10/10 would recommend!
We know we need to do things differently to reduce our emissions. We know we need to change. But how?
“It’s really difficult to talk to adults and ask them to change,” says Jenni Hagland, leader of Zero Emissions Schools program. “I had this epiphany one day at the bakery. There was an adult in line with his bread bag. I said, ‘Oh, that’s amazing,’ and he said, ‘My kids make me do it, I don’t want to.’
“It made me think: get the kids doing it, then their parents will change. It’s so much easier to get adults to change when their kids are involved.”
Jenni Hagland is new to ZESN but no newcomer to change-making. She has been directly involved in sustainability for more than a decade. In 2006 she began working for the Carbon Disclosure Project, a global NGO based in London, followed up by work for the CDP in Hong Kong. She moved to Sydney in 2016 and started the Mosman Public School Sustainability Club in 2018.
The club started small, fundraising for recycling bins, having ‘nude lunch’ challenges, turning off lights and installing LEDs. Then this April, after a year of planning and fund-raising, the school installed 50kW of solar panels on its roof. The system will provide 25% of the school’s electricity needs, saving $8,000 a year.
Now Jenni has joined Zero Emissions Sydney North to work on sustainability in schools across the region, starting with a new range of resources available from the Zero Emissions website. There are practical, step-by-step guides to forming a school sustainability team, revving up your recycling and active transport, and making sustainability a part of the curriculum. Plus there are inspiring case studies from Mosman Public School and Manly Selective showing how young people are making change happen, and benefitting their schools and communities at the same time.
“People overlook the impact kids have on their parents. You’re changing their behaviour at an early age, making them aware of the problem. These little people are going to turn into adults. I think it’s really important to make that not new or weird. It’s a part of their behaviour, and that will rub off at home, their parents will change, small business will respond to that, community will change.”
If you are inspired by these stories, if you want to help your school save money and carbon emissions, please get in touch.
As a partner with local real estate agency Cunninghams, Georgi Bates is often asked for advice on house builds, layouts and renovations. Should we put on solar? Should we have a battery? Do they affect the value of our home?
When I drop by to talk about sustainability trends in real estate, the answers are clear. From the street, Matt and Georgi Bates’ house looks much like its neighbours: a weatherboard cottage with a picket fence and a bullnose verandah. But walk out the back and it’s all happening. There’s a new garage going up on the back boundary, complete with solar panels to heat the new pool. There’s an electric car charger, batteries and a green wall, ready to plant.
“We’re pretty much off the grid,” says Matt. “The oven’s running off the battery and we’re feeding to the grid. We have about 6kW [of panels] on the roof, providing about 5.5kW per hour. We realistically only need about 3kW per hour for our charging and usage.
“We’ve got a Tesla [car]. We’re putting in a pool, and that’s going to have heating costs, but we’re not going to run it on gas. We’re putting more solar and another battery on. We’re going to run it on the sun and the battery.”
Matt and Georgi’s top TV tips: Ewen McGregor’s Long Way Up, a rollicking adventure through South America on *electric* Harley-Davidsons!
A self-confessed sustainability nerd, Matt has driven the research and design of their renovation. Georgi, meanwhile, has driven the Tesla.
“I’m not a car person. But particularly during Covid, working from home, the Tesla is another office, another workspace. I recently got into a petrol car and it felt like a dinosaur. It was a nice car, but it’s amazing the difference of the sound and fuel compared to battery operated.”
Beyond their own home, Georgi is seeing interest in solar power, sustainable building and energy efficient housing growing.
“It starts with someone [putting on solar] in the street then everyone is curious. They all speak to Matt and ask about the benefits. And I’m starting to see more of a shift with people wanting to put green gardens on their garage roofs, or looking into rooftop gardens.”
This trend is set to strengthen with recent developments in the building codes. At the moment the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme – aka NatHERS — requires new houses to score at least 6 out of 10 for energy efficiency. In 2021, NatHERS is set to be extended to existing homes, so that when you buy or sell, just like household appliances, each property will come with an energy efficiency star rating. At which point it’s not just about saving money on a power bill: it directly affects the value of your house. So Matt and Georgi are not just champions for sustainability: they’re smart investors.
“I think sustainability is the future of real estate. It will become one of the must haves.”
Georgi Bates is a partner at Cunninghams Real Estate. Whether you are looking to buy or sell, or just to find out more about the market, she’s happy to hear from you.
A shout out to Manly Food Co-op, who are our special guests at the next Solar My House session on October 27th at 6.30pm. The Co-op is a bit of an inspiration for me — a community organisation which has survived many challenges, not least, adapting their entire business to socially-distanced and online shopping on a week’s notice back in March. You can now shop in person, or online, then pick up your goodies from their shop on Wentworth Street. It’s just down the street from Coles, next to one of the pedestrian entrances to the Wentworth Street Municipal carpark.
October’s Solar My House session is still on Covid-safe Zoom, but inspiration for my BYO drinks and nibbles comes from the yummy selection of locally-produced, organic, plastic-free produce stocked at the Co-op.
Sophisticated attendees could try Pickled cucumbers with seaweed and sesame. Or chocoholics (er, guilty as charged) might go straight for Chocolate popcorn. The great thing about all the Co-op recipes is that all ingredients are available in the shop, and they’re all packaging free and mostly organic, locally-sourced and competitively priced. For example, their certified organic milk is only $1.95 a litre. Although you do need to bring your own bottle or jug!
Non-MFC-members are welcome to join us for Solar My House on October 27 but places are limited, so book your spot. Or, even better, join MFC (it’s only $5 and you’ll get that back in your 10% discount) and grab some good things to eat while you find out about renewable energy, rooftop solar, rebates, batteries and more.
**STOP PRESS** **STOP PRESS** **STOP PRESS** **STOP PRESS** **STOP PRESS**
Since publishing this post, we’ve been able to confirm three electric cars and four electric bicycles will be at our first stall at Mosman Arts and Crafts Market on Saturday October 3. Come and see the Nissan Leaf and the Hyundai Kona (from 9.30am) and the Tesla (from 12.30pm) and chat to the owners about the driving experience.
For the curious, young and old, there will be hands-on exhibits, like a pool pump which could save you $100s of dollars, and a photovoltaic panel, converting the sun into power in real time. Plus have you seen the Tesla PowerWall battery in action? We’ve got an app for that, and you’re invited to come and play.
We’ll be there from 8am till 3pm, with information on ways to reduce your emissions ranging from rooftop solar to electric bikes to home efficiency tips. If you’re in the area, please drop by and say hello.
Many thanks to Mosman Council for their support, and don’t forget to sample the food, have a good coffee and browse the beautiful, hand-crafted jewellery, clothes and other treasures while you’re there.
I am a shameless early adopter, first in the queue for the new gadgets. I installed solar back in 2011. I paid around $6,000 for a 5.5 kW system, 20 panels. The system has more than met my expectations. It’s easily paid for itself, and I love knowing that I’m producing my own power.
But… You knew there was a but coming, didn’t you? I have no regrets, but I learnt a few lessons the hard way. Here they are:
You get what you pay for
Photovoltaic panels are well-established technology. They’re not hard to manufacture. That means there is a huge range on the market, some of them very cheap. Sadly, the usual rule applies: you get what you pay for. If they’re cheap, they’re cheap for a reason. (The same applies to the inverter, by the way. Finn Peacock does a handy summary of good brands at SolarQuotes.)
My panels were mid-range price. They’re doing ok. They’ve certainly paid for themselves. But there are cracks in the panels which suggest they might be on the way out.
2. Google maps is not enough
Most solar sales teams will look at your roof on Google maps and tell you instantly how many panels you can fit on your roof. However, Google can’t tell them the whole story. A reputable company will visit your house to check the access, the shading, the state of the roof etc., as well as to discuss with you, in person, how it works. If they don’t offer to do this, they might not be the company for you.
When my panels arrived, the installers discovered that they could not fit all the panels I had purchased on the north-facing side of my roof. They ended up putting 5 panels on the east-facing roof. It means I get a bit of power early in the morning, but it is heavily shaded in winter – not ideal.
3. Know your trade
Some companies do not have installers on staff. They make the sale, then use contractors to install. This model is common with the cheap cheap online deals you see. Because the price is so low, the contractor only gets a slim margin, with no incentive to ‘go the extra mile’ in service or quality. You’re generally better off with a company that has its own installation teams. In other words, actually solar technicians!
I got quotes from SolarQuotes and chose a company from the list. The panels were installed by contractors. I called up two weeks after installation because a circuit had tripped and was told, “someone will get back to you.” Guess what? They didn’t.
4. Weasel words and warranties
A 25 year performance warranty is pretty standard for all solar panels. This means that after 25 years, your panels should still be pumping out the power. It’s not, however, a warranty against manufacturing faults on the panels or, more importantly, on the inverter. A reputable company should offer at least 15 years on panels (the best offer 25 years) and at least 10 years on the inverter, and give you a number to call if either fail. If they don’t offer this kind of follow-up, you could make an expensive mistake.
I thought my panels were guaranteed for 25 years. Turns out I mistook the ‘performance warranty’ for the ‘product warranty’. Rooky error.
5. Solar panels really are a no-brainer
In spite of the various traps I fell into, I have nothing but love for my solar panels. They have been worth every penny. Two years ago we added a Tesla battery to the mix, meaning that some days we are running on 100% solar power. I’m proud of taking action, and my electricity bills have reduced by around 60%. I’d encourage anyone who has a suitable roof to install solar panels if at all possible, because both financially and environmentally they represent a no-brainer. And looking at the app and seeing you’re 91% self powered is SO satisfying!
So… Do it, do it now, but do it smart. You can avoid my mistakes by coming to a Zero Emissions Solar My House info session to find out how solar works and how to make sure you get the best system for you.
Nearly 200 people joined Mosman Council’s online Climate Action Forum last night to hear a stellar panel of guest speakers and government representatives discussing climate resilience and responding to climate change.
The panel included:
- The Hon. Matt Kean MP, NSW Minister for Energy & Environment and Member for Hornsby
- Zali Steggall OAM MP, Federal Member for Warringah
- Felicity Wilson MP, Member for North Shore
- Mosman Mayor Carolyn Corrigan
- Professor David Schlosberg, Professor of Environmental Politics at the University of Sydney and Director of the Sydney Environment Institute
- Professor Ruth Irwin, Team Leader Sustainability, Mosman Council.
Dominic Johnson, General Manager of Mosman Council was Master of Ceremonies.
It was a lively forum with some insightful questions posed by audience members including representatives of Zero Emissions Sydney North. You can watch the complete forum here.
- Zali Steggall MP explained how the proposed Climate Act will confirm a Federal net-zero-by-2050 target, which all States and Territories have already agreed to. She also discussed how legislation has helped successful climate action in countries such as conservative-governed-UK.
- Professor David Schlosberg talked about Australia’s potential to be a renewable energy superpower
- Matt Kean MP and Felicity Wilson MP spoke about NSW State based actions including the new renewable energy zones
- Professor Ruth Irwin presented climate facts and solutions, and both Ruth and Mayor Carolyn Corrigan spoke about Mosman Council’s actions so far, including the 51 kW solar installation on the Marie Bashir Mosman Sports Centre as part of a Mosman-wide program to install solar on council owned buildings, LED upgrades planned for all street lights, and new resources to help individuals to take action, such as informational videos on solar, batteries and saving energy on the Council’s website, and discounted access to the Climate Clever app for all residents.
The panel spoke passionately about the need to support vulnerable people in our community who will be impacted by rising heat and unstable weather, and the urgency, the need to act now. They also urged people to use their democratic power to vote for climate action, and emphasized how important it was to consider politicians’ past voting records rather than their promises.
The panel ended with a video of a Q & A with local school students talking to Matt Kean and Felicity Wilson. The video makes it clear that young people are well across the facts and want to hear how we are switching to renewable energy, protecting our forests and animals, and creating renewable and sustainable jobs for their families and the students in the future.
Mosman Council also recently held three community workshops on climate, on mitigation, adaptation and resilience, and future scenarios. The three presentations from the workshops are available to view, along with a host of other videos, fact sheets, links and ideas for practical action on climate change.
To read more about Mosman Council’s climate action programs and initiatives, visit their website. And if you like what they’re doing, please tell them!
What rebates can I get? How much does it cost? How do I choose a reputable company? Are batteries worth the money? And what’s with these Facebook ads for cheap deals?
Bring all your questions to our free Solar My House webinar at 6.30pm on September 16, 2020. Hosted by volunteers Ann-Charlott and Ursula, with the expert input of solar guru David Veal, this relaxed and friendly info session aims to get you up to speed on rooftop solar and show you how you could save money on power bills and help the environment.
We’ve already helped 100s of households start their solar journey. Here’s what some of them have said:
I thought the evening was honestly great. For me it removed any barriers to entry with making the switch, mostly around research, clarity and options. I thought the good, better, best approach was perfect. Thanks so much for starting this clever, helpful and powerful (no pun intended) initiative.
I love the fact that you guys are getting up and doing something when so many others just worry but never take action. It is exciting to have a target to work towards for our region. I love the fact that you have built in a ‘giving loop’ and plan to install solar for various charities to allow them to focus their funds on their core work, while simultaneously reducing emissions. Simply brilliant!
Tickets are FREE but space is limited, so please book in here: https://events.humanitix.com/solar16september2020
Cool but sunny. A perfect day to show off two solar installations in Manly. Many thanks to generous householders John and Dof, who welcomed people to their homes and answered all the questions.
How much did it cost? What does it look like? How much space does it take up? How long did it take to install? What are your bills like? Would you recommend your installers? Would you do anything differently? And how do I get that amazing app?
Thank you to all the people who came visiting and we hope you found it useful. Hopefully this can be the first of many Solar Open Days. And if you’ve got rooftop solar and would like to demonstrate it, let us know.
Catherine Willis and her husband John attended one of our first Solar My House parties (pre-Covid), and were immediately inspired to make changes. They were keen to install solar panels but, with a roof due for an overhaul, it wasn’t the right time for them. So they decided to put solar panels on their childrens’ roofs instead.
Putting solar panels on their childrens’ houses has had a range of positive effects: by reducing their electricity bills for the life of the system — hopefully at least 25 years — it’s a way of supporting them, financially, on an ongoing basis. It’s also been a conversation starter, both for the family and for their friends, who now see the panels and hear about how they work. And personally, it has made Catherine and John feel like they are making a difference.
After the Solar My House party Catherine also immediately contacted Diamond Energy (via the Zero Emissions Sydney North website) to enquire about how it worked. The changeover was, she says, seamless.
It’s not hard and it’s also not expensive. I thought it would be more expensive with renewables, but it turns out it’s not.
Now she’s a big fan, and recommends Diamond Energy wholeheartedly, both for their customer service and for their environmental credentials.
I don’t really worry about myself. I just worry about the grandkids, and what world we’re leaving. We do what we can. …When we switched to renewables with Diamond straight away we felt much better.