Last weekend I went home to Port Macquarie, where I hail from. It’s famous as a coastal town a driveable distance from Sydney where you can go to see dolphins and koalas for a weekend. It’s a beautiful place and has the most temperate climate of anywhere in Australia. It is where people go to retire and generally be conservative.
What I found to be the most incredible thing about my most recent trip wasn’t even seeing whales swim by, but that in the six months since my last visit solar panels have taken over the town. Every second roof, like some photovoltaic plague had taken over my town!
It’s the new “keeping up with the Jones’”. One street in particular seemed like it was tripping over itself to become one solid layer of solar panel. I counted 12 panels on one small roof, arranged interestingly to maximise roof space. One house had solar pool heating, some PV panels and solar hot water all on the one roof! WHAT’S GOING ON HERE?
Then I thought this must be some kind of competition. Or model display. Or maybe someone was giving out free panels at the school fete. Or maybe there was a rumour that solar technologies repelled witches or worse, bad surf days.
But in fact, it turns out, that it actually makes sense, financially, environmentally and aesthetically to make your own power. Since NSW introduced its regretfully named “gross feed in tariff” and nudged households and industry in the direction so many already wanted to go- look what has happened- even in Port Macquarie. This is a town where column inches are dedicated to climate deniers week after week in the local paper. People are feeling the long-term benefits of these shiny contraptions in their hip pockets, whatever their politics or grasp of the latest science.
People want clean energy. They just need to be able to afford it.
What we really need is a feed in tariff for all renewable technologies and at industrial scales. Imagine instead being surprised to see solar panels scattered throughout my hometown, Port Macquarie council announced they were beginning construction of a solar thermal plant? I may have an aneurysm. It would be worth it.