Every sunny day in Moe represents a chance for its cricket and football clubs to invest in the community’s future thanks to the financial benefit of a rooftop solar system atop the local oval’s grandstand.

While the oval’s rooftop solar system supplies renewable energy to the grid and lowers the carbon emissions of the cricket and football clubs that share the venue, it also brings the added bonus of slashing the cost of their power bills.

It was “purely economics,” that drew the Moe Cricket Club and its treasurer Mick Walshe to the idea of rooftop solar panels as a cost-cutting measure.

So with the support of the football club, the cricketers successfully pursued a grant from the local Latrobe Valley Authority to install a solar array atop the grandstand.

“We had a significant power bill,” Mr Walshe told ABC Radio National.

“We’re talking about – between us and the football club – a $16,000 power bill over a 12-month period.

“The January bill that came in this year, we had to pay $158. A bill for a similar period last year was $900.”

Those savings have been used to reduce the registration costs for Moe’s junior players by a third, with the long-term goal to let kids play for free.

“(Cricket is) a very expensive sport to play, compared to other sports,” Mr Walshe said.

“Hopefully it will encourage more kids to come and play cricket.”

Community clubs could have the biggest rooftop solar impact: UNSW researchers

The Moe Cricket Club is a study in combining sensible financial planning with practical, environmentally impactful technology. 

And sporting clubs across the country have been reviewing how solar infrastructure can provide cost savings, following the release of the Powering a sporting nation report in April by the Australian Conservation Foundation  in conjunction with the University of New South Wales and Australian PV Institute.

The report showed Australia’s elite level sporting facilities could generate enough solar energy to power 2890 homes and prevent the release of 310 kilotonnes of carbon dioxide over two decades.

From heat exhaustion affecting cricketers and international cycling races, to flooding of football facilities across the country and bushfires forcing the abandonment of games, the impacts of climate change are now being felt by sporting groups across Australia.

But it’s community sporting clubs that have the greatest potential to reap the benefits of the sun’s rays, with the report finding grassroots facilities could generate five times as much renewable power through rooftop solar as their elite counterparts.

“Because sport is everywhere, and it reaches into every community, there’s an opportunity to take the lead here and show the benefits of solar,” Dr Mike Roberts - senior research associate from UNSW’s School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering told ABC Radio National.

“Part of the point of this report as well is making the connections with the fact that sport… already is being impacted by climate change.

“The smoke in the bushfires stopped loads of games, people have heat exhaustion and had to cancel games, clubs have been flooded out.”

Dr Roberts suggests the sports community across all codes and levels – from the amateur to the professional – can lead the nation in adopting climate-positive resources. 

The time intensive nature of formulating a business case can also be offset for local clubs through ACF’s partnership with the Australian Energy Foundation that provides free assessments for rooftop solar installation.

“(Being) time poor is the biggest issue, because it does take a bit of effort to work out what’s best,” said Dr Roberts.

“(The Australian Energy Foundation) could come and look at your energy use, look at the roof space, and make some recommendations of what you could do, and make some financial assessments of what it will cost.

“They pay for themselves in four to six years.”

Desire for change in sport community growing

Sportspeople are increasingly seeking change in the way their games interact with the environment. 

Collingwood footballer and AFLW coach Jordan Roughead came out in support of ACF's launch of the Powering a sporting nation report.

Former Wallabies captain David Pocock and his wife Emma, who is the founder and chief executive of FrontRunners are among the most high-profile Australians actively educating the nation about the dangerous effects of climate change. 

Meanwhile, elite level American and European and Australian athletes on the international stage have added their voices to the call for change. 

It's an encouraging sign, but work can be done now to accelerate action. 

Roughead indicated that the AFL playing body was working towards a stance on climate action.

And ACF will be working with major national leagues to present the opportunity of rooftop solar at all levels of sport.

"Australia’s big national sporting codes could come together this year and agree to prepare a roadmap to make sport powered by 100 per cent clean energy by 2030," said ACF campaigns director Paul Sinclair. 

"Australia’s sports administrators need to implement action to cut pollution, speak up for more urgent national climate action and help fans and community clubs find the solutions needed to make a big difference.

"But clean energy is not the only goal; By setting a goal to lift the solar energy generation of AFL, cricket and soccer, those sports would save a combined $3.7 million annually.

"The funds saved could be used to get more kids involved in sports to improve their physical and mental health.

"Community clubs would have to cook 2.5 million sausages to raise the same amount money to help grow the game."

Register your club for a free business assessment for rooftop solar installation thanks to the Australian Conservation Foundation here.


Header photo: Mick Walshe is the Treasurer of the Moe Cricket Club. Photo: Australian Conservation Foundation

Matt Agius

Australian Conservation Foundation