MINISTER for Energy and Resources and Climate Action, Lily D’Ambrosio visited Yallambee Traralgon Village for the Aged last Wednesday (April 24) to officially acknowledge the government-supported solar power system.

In 2022, not-for-profit aged care enterprise Yallambee Aged Care Services received a grant to install solar on its 120 bed Margery Cole residential aged care facility in Traralgon, one of the many sites across Gippsland that reaped the benefits of the state government’s $3 million Latrobe Valley Energy and Growth Program.

In collaboration with Gippsland Climate Change Network (GCCN), who project managed the installation, RACV Solar installed a 276kW solar system on the roof of the aged care village.

“We’re supporting the Valley’s renewable energy future with projects that reduce energy bills for locals and help create skilled jobs for the next generation,” Minister D’Ambrosio said.

Since installation, according to state government reports, the Yallambee panels have generated more than 352,000 kW of renewable electricity, with residents saving up to $88,165 off their bills, which has also prevented more than 350 tonnes of emissions.

Yallambee has used the valuable savings to pay for more staff at the facility to provide better care for residents.

According to the Gippsland Climate Change Network, this village also comprises 96 Independent Living Units (ILU) which have not been included in this project. Within the first 110 days of the successful installation of the 276kW rooftop PV system by local company RACV Solar, it has produced 108,568kW of power, with (a revenue) cost saving of $27,809.29 and a CO2 reduction of 108.24 tonnes.

“(The project is) about demonstrating and utilising the skills that exist in the Latrobe Valley and the Gippsland region – the Gippsland region is the energy hub of the country,” Minister D’Ambrosio said.

Before it was RACV Solar, the company was Gippsland Solar. Founded in 2010, Gippsland Solar was acquired by RACV in 2019.

The company has more than 10 years of experience installing solar for residential homes and commercial projects across Gippsland and East Gippsland.

“Latrobe Valley will remain having the skilled workforce and remain the energy hub that we need into the future – making sure we don’t lose those fantastic skills that have been built up for decades here,” Minister D’Ambrosio added.

Darren McCubbin, chief executive of the GCCN said, “RACV Solar answered our frequent questions promptly and did an excellent job through the installation, 90 per cent of residents surveyed agreed there were no concerns with the workers or equipment during the installation process.”

Yallambee’s Board Chair thanked the state government for its support.

“I am pleased to say that the savings from the solar installation from this grant initiative directly enhances the quality of care for our elderly residents. With these savings, Yallambee has been able to fund increased nursing hours, purchase more specialised equipment, and provide multiple communication screens throughout the facility,” they said.

“Accessing these ongoing savings will benefit residents and the community and assist Yallambee to continue to provide exceptional care whilst contributing to environmental and financial sustainability.”

The cost of the project was around $355,200, with $317,368 being provided through funding from the Latrobe Valley Energy and Growth Program – Stage 2.

The facility is also expected to receive a Victorian Energy Efficiency Certificate (VEEC) rebate around $105,000 after 12 months of operation for CO2 savings due to solar and energy efficiency measures.

According to the GCCN report, the Yallambee project, even without the grant funding and rebates, would eventually pay for itself after around seven-and-a-half years. With the VEEC rebates, the installation should pay for itself after around five years.

Visiting three community-led projects under the program, Minister D’Ambrosio also visited the Lardner Park floating solar project, where they had installed a 50kW FPV community demonstration floating solar system on the large dam at Lardner Park, and also the Yarram Recreation Reserve, which also received Secure Back-Up Power Supply through a solar and battery system under the project.

The project at Yallambee is a template for solar installations for around 57 other aged care facilities within Gippsland that are looking to develop renewable solutions and also for further investigations at Yallambee around the Independent living units (ILU) on site.