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Community solar sees Old Beechworth Gaol in a new light

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11 November 2021

We’re celebrating 3 million rooftops in Australia that have installed small-scale solar PV! To mark this celebration, we’re sharing the stories of people and communities who choose solar.

Old Beechworth Gaol in north-eastern Victoria, echoes with the history of Australia’s bushranger past. In the early 1880s, following their reign of terror in the district, the gaol housed the notorious Ned Kelly, his mother Ellen Kelly and the rest of the Kelly Gang. Fast forward to 2021 and the gaol is now home to the region’s first community-owned solar PV array, and an active hub of social enterprise tourism venues and ventures.

Image of Old Beechworth Gaol showing tour group.
Tour group at the Old Beechworth Gaol.

Community-owned solar projects provide the owners of the building with a source of renewable energy at a reduced rate without the need to purchase the solar system outright.

According to Matt Pfahlert, CEO of the Australian Centre for Rural Entrepreneurship (ACRE), and one of the instigators of the revival of the gaol site as a hub for social enterprise, “The solar system at Old Beechworth Gaol consists of 89 rooftop PV panels with a 30kW capacity. This will generate just over half of the gaol’s electricity requirements.”

The project was facilitated by Indigo Power and funded by community investors. Indigo Power, a social enterprise providing affordable renewable energy systems and supply, has contracted to sell the power generated by the Old Beechworth Gaol’s solar PV system back to the gaol at a reduced rate for approximately 10 years. At the completion of the contract, Indigo Power will hand the system back to the gaol who will have access to the free, clean energy for the rest of the life of the array.

This solar system provides cheaper electricity to the gaol, which allows it to serve the Beechworth community in new and innovative ways that are a far cry from its bushranger roots.

The revival of Old Beechworth Gaol began in 2011 when Matt Pfalert and fellow social enterprise entrepreneur Clayton Neil set about creating a site for like-minded members of the Beechworth community to establish businesses. As with the solar system installed at the gaol, the purchase of the site was made possible by community and philanthropic funding.

Image of Old Beechworth Gaol courtyard.
Courtyard at the Old Beechworth Gaol.

“The Old Beechworth Gaol of today is not only a thriving tourism venue,” says Matt. “It’s a home for training organisations, catering venues, a bike hire business and co-working spaces which focus on building successful partnerships with the Beechworth community”.

“It’s also home to Indigo Power, which is also a community-owned social enterprise.”

“The solar PV system we have installed is part of our overall vision for creating a thriving, sustainable enterprise at the old gaol, and ensuring it is contributing to a future which focuses on social and environmental values.”

Learn more about Old Beechworth Gaol and our 3 million rooftops with small-scale solar PV installed.

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