SOLAR FIX: Connor, Ross and Keith from Chalmers Electrical Solutions Monto with volunteers Desley and Doug Kuhn, board member Connie Forsyth, facility manager Mary Sharp, clinical manager Tracey Pattie and board secretary Mia Francis.
SOLAR FIX: Connor, Ross and Keith from Chalmers Electrical Solutions Monto with volunteers Desley and Doug Kuhn, board member Connie Forsyth, facility manager Mary Sharp, clinical manager Tracey Pattie and board secretary Mia Francis.

How retirement home can reduce power bill by $40K

TUESDAY was an important day in the history of Ridgehaven Retirement Complex in Monto, which directly employs about 50 locals.

It was the day their 312 new solar panels were switched over by Ergon Energy.

“We anticipate we’re going to have huge savings in electricity costs,” facility manager Mary Sharp said.

“Electricity is one of our big costs. Everything is on electricity: mattresses, buzzers, specialist equipment, it’s such a huge, huge cost.

“That money, we’re now going to reinvest in the complex for our residents.”

In 2018 – 19, Ridgehaven’s electricity costs were $63,000 excluding GST.

Moving forward, they estimate they will save $10,000 per quarter on their bill.

Ridgehaven is a community owned not-for-profit business: “There’s not many of us anymore,” board member Connie Forsyth said.

Board secretary Mia Francis said the business is “always concerned about our viability and ensuring we’re being as efficient as we can in all areas”.

“Costs in other areas have gone up significantly, wages, on-costs such as employment expenses, general running expenses, so we’re trying to save in areas where we possibly can,” she said.

Some of the new solar panels at Ridgehaven Retirement Complex Monto.
Some of the new solar panels at Ridgehaven Retirement Complex Monto.

Ms Forsyth said the savings would help Ridgehaven bounce back from a tough decade, which resulted from the persistent drought and sudden floods that have wracked Monto.

“It’s been a huge impact on businesses like ours in the community so this is going to be a huge boost so we can focus our funding in other areas,” she said.

Ms Sharp noted that local business Chalmers Electrical Solutions Monto were performing the work.

“Local businesses support us, but likewise we support them,” she said.

The funding for the solar panels was made available under the Federal Government’s Aged Care Regional, Rural and Remote Infrastructure Grants scheme.

Ridgehaven’s successful application was announced in February of this year.

They received more than $450,000, which also allowed Ridgehaven to purchase new equipment for their kitchen – “Now we can have roast dinners,” volunteer Desley Kuhn said – and refurbish 13 bathrooms.

The business was alerted to the grant by Mrs Kuhn’s husband Doug.

“Doug is retired, he’s always got radio going in the shed, regardless of whether he’s in the shed or not, and he heard the information,” she said.

“He was nagging me for weeks about this grant.

“A month before it was due to close, I mentioned it to Charmaine (Smith, diversional therapist), and nobody knew about it.”

The Kuhns’ daughter Diana Vogel, who lives in northern New South Wales, then spent dozens of hours working remotely with the Ridgehaven staff to put together the application.

“If it hadn’t been for her, we wouldn’t have gotten it,” Mrs Kuhn said.


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