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Byron Shire
October 4, 2023

People power seeks solar power

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Last Sunday 50 people walked in Byron Bay to call on local federal MPs Justine Elliot and Janelle Saffin to get behind Australia’s first solar-thermal power station. Among those attending the walk were Tweed councillor Garry Bagnall, Byron councillor Rose Wanchap and Ballina councillor Jeff Johnson (pictured L to R above).

The group has joined a national alliance that is working to see Australia’s first coal-fired power station replaced with solar power.

The walk was timed to coincide with the end of a 300km walk from Port Augusta in South Australia to Adelaide in which dozens of people have walked day and night to show their support for replacing two polluting power stations in Port Augusta with clean safe solar.

Ian Stirling spoke on behalf of Beyond Zero Emissions, and Councillor Rose Wanchap spoke on behalf of Repower Byron.

‘Time and time again the people of northern rivers have shown they love solar. We now have thousands of panels on roofs across the area – one of the highest take-up rates in Australia – and this means we are starting to make great use of the free energy source that is the sun,’ said spokesperson Kathy Booth.

‘But there’s so much more potential. We need to be building big solar plants that can replace our coal stations as well as little solar on people’s roofs.

‘In Port Augusta in South Australia the local community is dealing with significant health impacts caused by two dirty polluting power stations on their doorstep. This is causing double the average cancer rates in the local town. But there is also a big opportunity to replace these coal plants with solar.

‘That’s why the people of the northern rivers are joining today with hundreds of others to organise SOLARdarity walks around the country, in support of the people of Port Augusta and the South Australian walk.

‘Concentrated solar-thermal technology is delivering baseload power to industry on every continent in the world. The exceptions are Antarctica and Australia,’ added Kathy Booth.

‘Australia is the sunniest continent on earth – it just makes so much sense to build plants that harness the sun to make electricity. It is the future of energy generation but none to date have been built in Australia,’ Kathy Booth added.

‘We particularly want our MPs Justine Elliot and Janelle Saffin to get behind the plan to replace the ageing coal power stations in Port Augusta with a solar-powered plant that can store the heat and keep generating power long after the sun goes down.’

Speaking on the Repower Byron initiative, Byron Greens councillor Rose Wanchap said, ‘The single most important thing we can all do now is to work towards not consuming the energy provided by fossil fuels, either by building big solar plants or individually on our own roofs’.

‘A couple of the Byron Greens members and myself have a project to get all the commercial buildings in the Byron shire panelled with solar. It is a simple plan whereby the tenant pays off the panels at the same rate that he would be paying for electricity from the normal provider. The panels are provided on a finance package from the solar company. It is a win/win in that the landlord at no cost to himself secures solar panels and the tenant has a future savings once the panels are paid off. This template once operating can be used Australiawide. When consumption drops the financial incentive to mine fossil fuels will drop away,’ said Rose Wanchap.

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