Bendigo has been thrown into the spotlight - literally - thanks to a federal government grant to install new solar panels at the Bendigo Golf Club.
The golf club now joins hundreds of other local businesses and residential homes in leading the state's emissions reductions.
The federal government's $12,000 Powering Communities grant saw the installation of 68 new solar panels on the building, meaning the company will save thousands of dollars while playing an active role in the region's energy efficiency efforts.
Bendigo Golf Club General Manager Brock Rogers said the money the business saves on power bills will be used to expand the club.
"We're currently spending more than $35,000 on electricity a year," Mr Rogers said.
"It'll be great to be able to put that money into coaching and attracting junior players, as well as boosting the number of female golfers at the club."
Solar and its benefits
By now, most will have seen large navy panels dotting rooftops across the region, however many are unfamiliar with the workings of this kind of renewable energy.
According to the Clean Energy Council, solar converts sunlight into direct current electricity.
An inverter then converts the electricity into alternating current power for use on all electrical appliances within a household or business.
To be put simply, rather than drawing power from the electricity grid, the power is drawn from sunlight.
On a residential home, solar panels average about seven or eight kiloWatts (kW) of power, in comparison to commercial projects which average around 30.
Bendigo Sustainability Group president Colin Lambie said solar can be hugely beneficial.
"The cost of electricity from solar is usually five or six cents per kiloWatt out," he said, "so if you look at your electricity bill you'd most likely be paying 20 to 30 cents out, so it's a no-brainer financially."
Mr Lambie said the environmental benefits of solar are also significant, as Australia leads the world in coal emissions - at 5.34 tonnes of CO2 per year, nearly double that of China.
Locally, coal powered fire stations in the LaTrobe Valley emit almost ten times more mercury than power stations in the Hunter in New South Wales.
"If you look at the environmental benefit, the brown coal stations in the LaTrobe valley are amongst the worst in the world for emissions - and definitely in the country," Mr Lambie said.
"So solar, to put simply, doesn't burn brown coal."
Bendigo leading the way
For the BSG president, the country has a long way to go in terms of renewable energy, however he believes Victoria is forging a strong path ahead.
"We're ahead of average in Victoria in terms of the percentage of homes with solar," Mr Lambie said.
"Because of the work we've done over the last ten years in promoting solar energy."
BSG operates as an independent solar advisor for the central Victorian region - funded by both the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) as well as the state government.
The group has been involved in delivering a significant number of solar projects across the region, including the Central Victorian Solar Cities Project which resulted in a 300 kW solar farm at the Huntly livestock exchange.
"Since then we've been involved in projects of 20 to 30 kW," Mr Lambie said.
At the moment, the group is setting up seven 100kW projects for businesses across the region, including Hazeldenes, Bendigo Foodshare and the Woollen Mills.
The group is also finalising solar energy arrangements with Bendigo Health.
Other ways forward
For sustainability advocates across the region, solar power is just one part of the fight against climate change.
Recently, BSG has shifted its focus onto community waste, and Mr Lambie is liaising with Bendigo council to improve the city's recycling scheme.
"That's a really significant issue for us," he said, "but after electricity the next biggest issue is transport."
Mr Lambie said the group were actively trying to promote the use of electric vehicles across the region.
"For some people electric transport right now would be cheaper along its life than other forms of transport," Mr Lambie said.
"But the catch is the expenses are all up front at the moment - but over the life of the car an electric vehicle would be so much cheaper."
With electric vehicle prices remaining high for the time being, Mr Lambie is shifting his focus to local councils and state and federal governments
"In terms of renewables, we could be doing more and it could be led more strongly by everyone," he said.
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