A community engagement program designed to increase the number of women working in solar farm construction in Australia has been short-listed for the Clean Energy Council’s 2020 Community Engagement Award.
The ‘Women in Solar’ program, piloted by Beon Energy Solutions during the development of its 100MW Bomen solar farm in New South Wales, was nominated for the award alongside three other finalists, including Acciona, for its Neighbourhood Benefit Program connected to the Mortlake South Wind Farm in Victoria.
Also nominated were Sustainability Victoria, for its Community Power Hub program to support the development of regional community renewables projects, and Tilt Renewables for its extensive benefit-sharing plan for the community surrounding the Dundonnell Wind Farm, in Victoria’s Western District.
In a statement recognising the nomination, Beon said the ‘Women in Solar’ pilot program had provided training and employment to 11 women, including three single mothers, three Aboriginal women and five women who were long-term unemployed.
Beyond the Bomen solar farm pilot, Beon has also helped to set up a $500,000, 10-year partnership with Mount Austin High School, funded by parent company Spark Infrastructure and Westpac, to keep girls in school longer and support their transition into the workforce.
A further $50,000 scholarship fund for female workers to undertake further study or training courses to enhance their skills and assist them to continue working in the renewable energy industry was also established.
“The renewable energy sector is providing exciting job and economic growth opportunities and by creating the women in solar program, we are building the skills and diversity our industry will need for the future,” said Beon’s general manager, Glen Thomson.
“Congratulations to the other finalists in our category – we are excited to be recognised among such top-quality projects that are making a real difference to local communities,” he said.
Fellow finalist, Acciona, is being recognised for the community benefit program it built up around its 157.5MW Mortlake South wind farm, one of six winners of the Victorian government’s renewable energy auction in September of 2018
The program provided households within 4km of a turbine with a pre-loaded EFTPOS to use to spend on goods and services at participating local businesses, ensuring that the benefits of the project filtered through the local community while also shoring up Acciona’s social licence build the wind farm.
Sustainability Victoria, a state government agency linked to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, was nominated for its Community Power Hub program, which helped 15 projects proceed to the implementation stage in the 2019/20 financial year and generated more than $14.5 million of value – a 13-to-1 leverage on the government’s investment in the program.
The final nominee for 2020, Tilt Renewables, makes the list for its Dundonnell wind farm benefit-sharing plan, which included the installation of a mini-grid, a road safety fund, contributions to mental health support networks and a major contribution towards safe housing for women fleeing domestic violence.
“In addition to maintaining Tilt Renewables’ social licence in the region, the plan will create a lasting legacy by helping the prevention of suicide, supporting vulnerable communities and creating educational opportunities,” the CEC said.
The winner of the CEC Community Engagement Award will be announced on August 25 alongside the winner of the Innovation Award – you can read about the finalists in that category here – and of the Marketing and Communications Award.