Mallacoota builds community solar farm to purify town’s water

Published: 22 February 2023

In the seaside town of Mallacoota in far eastern Victoria, a local community group has taken charge of a solar power project to purify the town’s drinking water.

Tricia Hilley, local coordinator of the Mallacoota Sustainable Energy Group, moved to Mallacoota with her husband 12 years ago and is as passionate about her beautiful town and the benefits of clean energy.

“A number of us got together to future-proof our homes, which for us was reducing our environmental footprint as well as reducing any ongoing costs,” Tricia explains.

“This project is all a part of reawakening community here, and enthusiasm is growing for renewables."
Tricia Hilley, Mallacoota Sustainable Energy Group.

Funded through Sustainability Victoria’s Community Power Hubs program on behalf of the Victorian Government, the 22 kilowatt system produced more than 16.4 MWh of electricity in its first 9 months, with 88% going towards purifying the town’s water at the local water treatment plant. The new system has also avoided 8.7 tonnes of CO2-e being released into the atmosphere.

Tricia says the community-led project has also improved local energy security and driven community engagement – a “win-win-win” scenario for her community.

Tricia standing in front of the 22 kilowatt ground mounted solar installation at the local water treatment plant. Tricia standing in front of the 22 kilowatt ground mounted solar installation at the local water treatment plant.

What started as a small group of Mallacoota residents concerned about lowering carbon emissions and increasing energy security for their remote town, snowballed into a regional powerhouse of community action across Gippsland, when 2 like-minded groups in the region combined forces to receive funding from Sustainability Victoria. The whole town now shares in the positive impact of this project every time they turn on the tap.

Tricia believes the key to success were the partnerships formed, including with Sustainability Victoria’s Community Power Hubs program. This program was just one of the ways Sustainability Victoria connects communities with the expertise, resources and tools they need to take real action at a local level.

East Gippsland Water provided the land for the project and are the main buyer of the clean energy produced by the solar panels under a 10-year agreement that ensures the project can continue to lower carbon emissions, providing long-term benefits for Mallacoota.

The Mallacoota Sustainable Energy Group is already thinking about the next projects that might be possible in Mallacoota, such as an EV charger to encourage tourists to stop in the town.

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 more than 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

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