Geelong Sustainability helps power up the local YMCA to go solar

Published: 22 February 2023

With almost 1,000 gymnasts and 800 basketballers, the Geelong YMCA has been a hub of activity and connection for the community since 1953.

When the Y wanted to reduce their electricity costs to make their memberships more affordable to their community, they turned to Dan and Geelong Sustainability to guide them through the process.

Funded through Sustainability Victoria’s Community Power Hubs program on behalf of the Victorian Government, Geelong Sustainability worked with the YMCA to install a 60kW rooftop solar array on its Newtown Stadium.

The 131 panels produce more energy than the facility uses each year and have reduced the centre’s energy bills by half, making their facility more accessible and more affordable for the1,800 members to participate in gymnastics, basketball, netball and judo weekly.

“Because this project has been funded through the revolving fund, the impacts are ongoing. Beyond the environmental impact of this project, the revolving fund can continue to fund other community projects into the future."
Dan Cowell, Geelong Sustainability CEO
aerial view of solar panels on roof of building

The Community Power Hubs funding enabled Geelong Sustainability to set up a Community Energy Revolving Fund (CERF), which provided an interest-free loan to the YMCA to install the panels. The YMCA will use its $13,000 annual energy savings to pay back the loan over 5 years, and this funding will then be made available for other community solar projects in the Barwon region.

“We really want to make sure we're contributing to that,” said Shona. “Leaving a legacy for their future and the future of young people who come and use our facility is always important for us, as the legacy holders of the YMCA.”

Shona said that the community is keen to participate in sporting activities, but that it needed to be affordable.

“Energy costs are one of the highest outputs of running a business and we needed to think about how we could do that better, so reducing energy costs wherever we can is really important to having a sustainable sporting program," said Shona.

gymnasts execercing on red and blue mats

Shona said that there are now days when the Y is powered entirely by the rooftop solar, meaning that their energy use costs nothing, lowering their overall costs, meaning that they can keep costs down for their members.

“The manager gets excited, starts jumping up and down when it's not costing us anything,” said Shona.

This project is just one of more than 40 funded through Sustainability Victoria's Community Power Hubs program, on behalf of the Victorian government.

In addition to the financial savings for the YMCA, the Newtown Stadium carbon emissions will reduce by around 78 tonnes of Co2 annually, which is the equivalent of taking 20 cars off the road.

Community Power Hubs


The Community Power Hubs have played an effective role in spreading the benefits of clean energy across Victoria as we progress towards the Victorian target of net zero emissions by 2050. In the past year, the seven hubs across the state have supported 127 community organisations to deliver over 40 community energy projects, resulting in 1.4 MW of new solar capacity and 118 kWh of battery storage capacity, reducing community energy costs by over $207,000 per year.

Sustainability Victoria, on behalf of the Victorian Government has been supporting communities to accelerate Victoria’s transition to a cleaner greener future by providing $3.73 million in grants to support local community energy projects.

Many of the hubs established ongoing revolving funds, which can support a pipeline of community energy projects into the future, allowing communities to take charge of their own energy production and future-proof their community. The funds will be continually replenished through savings from local renewable energy projects.

Watch the video to learn more about the Community Power Hubs program.

Collective action

At Sustainability Victoria, we’re collecting stories about community action that we've supported through our grants and programs.

IIf you’d like to hear from Sustainability Victoria about how we can support your community project and upcoming grants and funding opportunities, subscribe to our newsletter.