Local solar stories

Don enjoys bill-free bliss all year round

 Resident solar

Long-time Richmond resident, Don Vogt, installed 12 solar panels (or 3kW capacity) solar energy system in 2012 and hasn’t looked back. Since then, he has not spent a cent on electricity use as his solar system generates enough power through all seasons.  

Don has long been careful with energy use – his Scottish parents always told him to put on another jumper rather than turn on the heating!  “I spend a lot of time at home, so since installing solar I run most appliances when the power is being made during the day. I love seeing my bill that says zeros dollars and zero greenhouse gas emissions”. 

Don also enjoys the great feeling he has about taking action to help our planet. “Don’t underestimate how good it feels to be part of the solution to our climate problems. Having solar helps overcome that feeling of ‘But what can I do?” 

“I’ve also heard that having a solar system on the roof is an incentive to buyers too, so I know I’m improving my property too”. 

Don’s solar system paid for itself long ago. With the rebates and interest-free loans available, you could enjoy energy savings from solar too.   

Amaryll achieves energy freedom for herself and her tenants

 Residents with solar panels

Amaryll and her partner Diana have lived in Clifton Hill for more than thirty years. As they planned their retirement, they wanted to build a new home with sustainable design and construction at the heart of the project. They owned two neighbouring 1920s cottages that sadly, were unfit for renovation. Instead of demolishing and building a single house, they chose to build two new sustainable townhouses — one to live in and one to rent to friends.

“We say our ‘new house’ but some of the materials used to build the house have come from the old house — we recycled as much as we could” Amaryll said.

The all-electric townhouses achieved an exemplary sustainability standard. Amaryll says “Our home is largely self-sufficient. There is no gas connection, and the solar energy system generates more electricity than used over the year. About 60 percent of the generation goes back to the grid.” 

Amaryll and Diana wanted to install the largest solar arrays their roof space would allow, achieving a combined capacity of 13.8 kilowatts, or 38 solar panels, across both townhouses. The system includes two 9.8 kilowatt hour batteries and smart technology to calibrate energy usage. 

The homeowners enjoy very low energy costs, in fact they don’t pay any energy costs for many months of the year, and pay only a small amount over winter. While they have always been energy conscious, they modified their behaviour in the new home. They have highly efficient ducted air-conditioning but manage it carefully, mainly using it during the day when they are generating power.

As owners of two neighbouring properties, Amaryll and Diana applied the same sustainability ethos to the property that they would rent out. Having lived in this area so long, they are strongly connected to this community and so wanted to be creating buildings that stand the test of time and provide energy freedom for future generations.

“We wanted anyone who comes to live in the second house to enjoy a comfortable, healthy home with lower energy costs for most of the year. We know that installing solar on any property increases its value too, so it made sense to us to just do it, even if we don’t pay the bills”.

The couple were also motivated to support the local renewables industry. As Amaryll says, “We wanted to do more than just cover our electricity needs. We maximised our investment in solar and batteries because we felt the more of us that do this, the stronger the industry becomes. That’s what Australia needs right now, a clean energy industry that keeps growing. Prices will come down too, making it more affordable for others in future”.

Quinn's no-fuss solar on a home in a heritage overlay

Resident with solar panels 

Quinn and his family installed a 3.5kW solar system about three years ago, when a mix of financial and environmental factors motivated them to make the switch. 

Like two thirds of homes in Yarra, his home is in a heritage overlay. However since the solar panels aren’t visible from the street or a park, they didn’t need to apply for a planning permit. Quinn said that having a heritage overlay didn’t impede the process – they just got on with it. “It was very straightforward. It didn’t impact on the heritage appeal at all,” he said.

Since installing solar Quinn has noticed savings on his family’s energy bills. They’ve also made other changes to the way they use energy – they upgraded their insulation, and started using appliances during the day when the solar system is generating power. They’re now considering retrofitting double glazing into the existing windows, and thinking about adding a battery in future. 

Yarra Council is making it easier to install solar on a property in a heritage overlay. It has long been the case that if your property is in a heritage overlay and your solar panels won’t be visible from the street or a public park, you don’t need a planning permit. For homes where the solar panels will be visible from a street or park, Council has waived the fee for planning applications to install solar panels.  We've also created new guidance for installing solar panels in a heritage overlays to assist planning permit applicants. 

It’s all part of creating a 100% Renewable Yarra.