Hub News, MASH+ News

MASH boost for Newstead

May 26, 2015: The MASH solar donation to Newstead Community Centre was reported today in the Midland Express.  This donation is a free 5Kw, 20 panel solar PV system from the first MASH (Mount Alexander Solar Homes) bulk-buy to celebrate the installation of the first 100 residential solar rooftops. In all, 225 households were installed with MASH solar systems (with MASH+ and MASH 1.1) between September 2014 and March 2015.

The second MASH community solar bulk-buy for households in Mount Alexander Shire – MASH 2 – will commence on Thursday 4 June, 2015.

Hub News, MASH+ News

Newstead Community Centre gets free MASH solar system

The Mount Alexander Solar Homes (MASH) project is pleased to announce that the recipient of the free community solar system from MASH round 1 is Newstead Community Centre, located in the heart of Newstead, a rural township 17 kilometres from Castlemaine in Central Victoria. Newstead Community Centre gets free MASH solar system

The 5Kw system is estimated to save more than two-thirds of the Centre’s current electricity bill of over $2,500 per year. This is the Centre’s most expensive running cost. The savings from installing the MASH solar system are anticipated to encourage greater use of the Centre as hire costs can be kept to a minimum.

The solar system is donated by the MASH community solar project to celebrate the milestone of the first 100 residential solar PV systems installed as part of MASH round 1. The system is valued at $7,400 and uses the same high performing Trina solar panels as installed on MASH homes.

“We feel that by demonstrating and showcasing such a system at the Centre it will encourage the local and wider community to consider changes to their own lifestyle, to consider their own carbon footprint, and by doing so, become more sustainable”, says David Stratton, Chairperson of Newstead Community Centre.

“We were delighted by the response from community groups and the strength of applications”, comments Jo Kaptein Project Officer at the Hub Foundation, the Castlemaine not-for-profit behind the MASH project. “It was a tough decision and the judges deliberated long and hard. Newstead Community Centre was voted number one as it did best against all the selection criteria in particular how it plans to use the savings from its electricity bills to maintain ongoing viability of the Centre.”

The system was installed yesterday, 20 May 2015, by Stephen Breheny Electricial Services, the installer for round 1 of the MASH project which resulted in almost 200 new solar rooftops in Mount Alexander Shire, with a further 25 installed through MASH round 1.1.

Newstead Community Centre's new 20-panel solar system
20 Trina panels installed on Newstead Community Centre, 20 May 2015, thanks to MASH participants

MASH 2 – the second round of the Hub Foundation’s community solar bulk-buy project – will launch at 2pm on Thursday 4 June, 2015, outside the Castlemaine Town Hall. The launch is an opportunity for anyone who is interested in going solar with a community bulk-buy to come along and find out more. In addition, MASH information sessions will be held throughout Mount Alexander Shire starting 24 June. Visit or call 0455-589-065.

Hub News, MASH+ News

MASH reported in RenewEconomy

14 April, 2015: The results of the first round of the Mount Alexander Solar Homes (MASH) solar bulk-buy project were reported in today’s RenewEconomy in an article entitled, ‘How bulk-buying solar is paying off for communities in Victoria.’

The article describes how the project was organised and marketed as well as the results. It documents the lessons learned which the Hub Foundation, the Castlemaine not-for-profit behind the MASH project, is incorporating into the next round of MASH, MASH2, which will launch in Mount Alexander Shire in May 2015.

Here are a few excerpts from the article. Read the full story here.

“One of the many ways to boost renewables is to offer households a bulk-buy price for solar from an organisation they will trust. With some seed funding and adherence to a few basic rules, community groups could run successful bulk-buys all over the country. Some have of course – especially in the Goulburn Valley area of Victoria – but it’s been quite ad-hoc to date.”

“After two months of intensive marketing, we had 360 expressions of interest to pass over to the installer we had appointed.  200 installations took place over the following six months. As houses and renovations are completed  over the next few months, the final total is expected to rise to around 225.”

“Whilst the number who finally committed was a bit lower than we expected, the outcome has been very encouraging given the paid and voluntary effort involved. The project accounted for an impressive 65% of total installations in the last four months of the year and the percentage of houses with solar in the Shire has risen from 18% at the end of 2013 to 24% today.”

“As a result,  the Shire is equal second in the solar stakes in Victorian LGAs. Only Indigo Shire, which contains the very green areas of Yackandandah and Beechworth, with 28% of houses with rooftop solar, is ahead of us.”

“In MASH 1 we didn’t claw back any money at all as we had some philanthropic seed funding. From now on, however, we are putting ourselves on a more sustainable footing by earning an average of $200 from each installation.  As a result, MASH 2 should bring in enough to cover our costs and leave a bit for next time.”


Hub News, MASH+ News, Uncategorized

MASH project a big success!

26 March 2015: Solar energy has really taken off in the Mount Alexander Shire. In terms of the percentage of homes with solar PV installed, the shire is now running equal second in Victoria to Indigo Shire which includes Beechworth and Yackandandah*.

The number of solar houses in the Shire increased from just over 1500 to almost 1900 in 2014, an increase of 24%*. Half of this increase was due to installations with the Mount Alexander Solar Homes (MASH) project. Also importantly, as shown in the accompanying graph, because the systems are now bigger, the total number of kilowatts installed increased by a whopping 34%. As a result of all this activity spurred on by the Mount Alexander Solar Homes (MASH) project, almost one in every four homes in Mount Alexander is now solar powered.

The solar revolution in Mount Alexander Shire

The MASH project was organised by Castlemaine’s Hub Foundation. Project Officer, Jo Kaptein, is very pleased with the result so far:

“It’s been fantastic. Many more people have saved money on their electricity bills and, at the same time, reduced their CO2 emissions.”

“Today our shire has 24% of houses with solar, compared with Bendigo’s 16%. Victoria overall has only 10%. But whilst we’re doing very well, we’ve still got a way to go before we can catch up to Indigo Shire’s 28%.

“It hasn’t all been smooth sailing though. The electricity distributor and the retailers haven’t always been easy to deal with, perhaps because they’re opposed to the Renewable Energy Target. We have recently written to Maree Edwards MLA to ask her to put some pressure on the government to carry out some reform in this area.

“The Hub Foundation is planning to launch the second stage of MASH in April. MASH 2 will emphasise the availability of a low interest solar loan to help those who are short of upfront cash. For most households this will allow them to be cash positive almost from the start: the savings on electricity bills will exceed the cost of interest and repayments.

“The Foundation’s aim is for Mount Alexander to become the No.1 solar shire in Victoria. We think 35% by the end of 2016 and 50% by 2018 Is achievable” said Kaptein.

*  Clean Energy Regulator, January 2015

Hub News, MASH+ News

MASH Solar Participants Meet Lisa Chesters

Date: 16 December 2014

A local landlord, a tenant, representatives from Campbells Creek Bowling Club, a Yandoit resident and others gathered this morning at The Good Table restaurant in Castlemaine for a coffee and a chat with Lisa Chesters, Federal Member for Bendigo.  The idea of the gathering was for Lisa to hear from a cross-section of the community about going solar with MASH, the Mount Alexander Shire Solar Homes community bulk-buy project organised by The Hub Foundation.

Felicity Faris echoed the feelings of virtually all those present saying,

“The purse-string factor was a consideration. But for me, ‘going solar’ was really about what kind of world we are leaving to our children and grandchildren.”

Worth pushing Powercor

Problems with Powercor, the electricity distribution company for much of our region were a hot topic. Nikki Marshall from Yandoit said her application for a 2Kw system was knocked back by Powercor for technical reasons.  But applying to Powercor for reconsideration is really worth it; MASH heard only today that a couple in Preshaw Street in Castlemaine have just had their application for a 4Kw system approved by Powercor after it was initially rejected.

Bowling Club gets ‘solar-smart’

Barry Ellis from Campbells Creek Bowling Club organised a 5Kw, 20 panel system from MASH and really did his homework to get the club’s power bill down.

“We weren’t happy with Origin so we shopped around using the website, and switched to another retailer who offered us 30% savings off our electricity and 25% off gas.  Our next step was to go with MASH for solar and also put timers on our fridges.  We’re monitoring our electricity usage closely to help us understand how we can be more efficient.  But I have to say that I’ve taken the timer off the beer fridge because the beer just wasn’t cold enough!”

Local landlord puts MASH solar on 3 properties!

Vic Say, a local landlord said,

“I get a million phone calls from solar companies each year and I just don’t trust them. But I trusted this community organisation, the Hub Foundation. I put three solar panel systems on – two on rental properties and one on my own home.  I would like to see a landlord/renter think-tank organised by the Hub Foundation to properly work out the sums to show how solar could be a win/win for both landlord and tenant.”

“MASH a stand-out example for rest of Australia” – Lisa Chesters

MASH is on track to increase the number of solar households in the Shire by 20% by the end of February 2015 and solar capacity in terms of kilowatts by 25%.

Lisa Chesters said “Mount Alexander Shire is one of the few communities in Australia doing a community solar bulk-buy on this scale. It’s a stand-out example for the rest of Australia.  My congratulations to all MASH participants for getting behind this initiative of the Hub Foundation.  I’m going to do everything I can to help spread this great story.”

Hub News, MASH+ News

MASH to donate 5Kw solar system to community group. Expression of interest sought by 30 Jan 2015

Friday 21 Nov, 2014: MASH (Mount Alexander Shire Solar Homes) installed its 100th solar system on Wednesday 12 November 2014. The happy customers are Chris and Hans van der Poel of Barkers Creek who said: “It was important to us that MASH is a community project and that the community can benefit from it. We went to one of the MASH community meetings and made up our minds then and there to go ahead.”

100th MASH i

To celebrate this milestone, the MASH project is donating a solar panel installation of up to 5kW (20 panels) for a community building in Mount Alexander Shire. The free system will be valued at up to $7,400. It could be put on a State or local government-owned building or a community-owned building owned by a club or other incorporated association. It is provided by the MASH project and being supplied and installed by Stephen Breheny Electricial Services, the installer for the MASH project.

The Hub Foundation, the not-for-profit organiser of the MASH project, is inviting expressions of interest by Friday 30 January 2015. The installation is expected to be carried out by the end of February 2015.

Community groups need to complete an online application which can be found on The Hub Foundation website by 30 January 2015. The application should include a statement of up to 250 words explaining why you believe your organisation should receive a free system, including the benefits for the community and the organisation managing the building. Also required are photos of the building and the latest electricity bills.

Neil Barrett, Director of The Hub Foundation says: “We are delighted that we have hit this milestone already and can fulfil our promise. MASH was always seen as a project with a big plus for the community. It’s a great opportunity for a community organisation to demonstrate that clean energy is now playing a major role in our energy system because of its very real financial and environmental benefits”.

Stephen Breheny says: “It’s great to be able to ‘give back’ to the community as part of this project. MASH customers are telling me that the community focus of MASH is really important and I am proud to be supporting this free installation. Through the MASH project, my company alone has provided employment to 13 local people on a part-time and full-time basis. I see this as another very important contribution of the MASH project to the community.”

The judges will be the three directors of the Hub Foundation and Stephen Breheny. The decision will be announced on the Hub Foundation website and in local media. Conditions and selection criteria are published on The Hub Foundation website here.

Hub News, MASH+ News

Solar is a win/win for Castlemaine rental couple and their landlord

MASH participant Linnet GoodMon 17/11/2014: Linnet Good and Dev Mukherjee tell their ‘solar story’

Linnet Good and Dev Mukherjee are renting a 3 bedroom property in central Castlemaine. Dev commutes to Melbourne on weekdays and Linnet works as a copywriter from home. Everything in the house runs on electricity including their heating, hot water, cooking and cooling.

“We’ve always been careful with our electricity use and turn off everything when we aren’t around,” says Linnet. “Despite this our electricity bills were high at around $2,640 per year. This was mainly because everything runs off electricity. But also the house isn’t very well insulated so a lot of power gets wasted and I really feel the cold in winter!”

The deal with the landlord

Linnet and Dev had been thinking about going solar for a while. They knew that they had to come up with a win/win proposition that would benefit both them and their landlord. Together with Stephen Breheny the installer for the Mount Alexander Solar Homes (MASH) solar bulk-buy project, they decided that they needed a 3Kw solar system (12 panels) which would cost $4630.

Linnet and Dev went to their landlord with an offer that they would pay an extra $25 per week in rent towards the cost of the panels ($1,300 per year) if the landlord purchased the solar system outright. This rental increase would pay off the capital cost of the solar PV system within 5 years, with an annual rate of return for the landlord of 5-7% (2-4% more than what’s currently on offer from banks).

Lower electricity costs already

The system was installed on the 3rd October this year. From meter readings so far, Dev says they are saving more than $25 per week on their bills. What has also helped is that they have shifted their power usage to daytime as much as possible when they are generating their own power from the sun. “Somewhat bizarrely”, says Dev, “our peak electricity consumption is now between midnight and 2am as we heat up our hot water at this time on an off peak tariff.”

Not just about lower bills

For Linnet and Dev, the environmental benefits of solar PV is what really drives them. Linnet says:

“I hate the idea that I’m contributing to climate change. I want to minimise my impact on the environment as much as possible. I believe it is one of the most important things I can do.”

“Putting solar on our home is, for me, a political act as much as anything else. I believe that everyone needs to do their bit to help reduce climate change, rather than rely on governments. This is about taking direct action and if we all did it, the difference we could make collectively would be enormous.”

And the message to landlords

“If you want good tenants, it makes sense to install solar. It’s a capital improvement to your property, you get better tenants and you can charge more rent,” says Linnet.

Hub News, MASH+ News

3rd MASH bulk order arrives, 12/11/14

Today 12/11/14 at 7am, another 680 solar panels were delivered by truck into Castlemaine for the MASH solar bulk-buy project. This will bring the total number of solar panels delivered for MASH to 2101!  Once installed (which will be by Christmas), this will be an extra 525.25Kw of solar power generated on rooftops in our region due to MASH participants. And there will be more to come!

MASH solar panels project - 3rd bulk order arrives
Stephen Breheny, son Berrick Breheny and John the MASH warehouse operator welcoming in the 3rd bulk order of solar panels under the MASH project
Hub News, MASH+ News

Lisa Chesters, Federal Member for Bendigo, commends Hub Foundation

Friday 7/11/14: The Hub Foundation and Stephen Breheny met with Lisa Chesters,  ALP Federal Member for Bendigo, on Friday to update her on the progress of the MASH project and she had this to say:

“I commend the Hub Foundation on the fantastic MASH+ project, aimed getting more solar panels on household roofs in Central Victoria. MASH+ is an exciting way for our local community to reduce power bills, make a positive contribution to climate change, and create jobs for local installers. It’s another example of Central Victoria leading the way in community based renewable energy projects. Our region is setting the benchmark for being able to power ourselves. Renewable energy just makes sense.”

Thanks Lisa for your support!