Sector: Accommodation Address: 14 King St, Warrnambool VIC 328 Environmental Upgrade: 20kW solar system Energy savings: $5,000 per year, $125,000 over the life of the project Sustainability: 21.9 tonnes of CO2 per year, 547.5 tonnes over the life of the project
A mere stone’s throw from Warrnambool’s Botanical Gardens, the Botanic Apartments pride themselves on providing environmentally responsible accommodation.
Owner Linda Close has overseen a number of sustainable upgrades on the site, from installing double glazed windows to help trap the winter sunshine, to near-eliminating the use of plastics thanks to compositable bin-liners and re-fillable soap dispensers. Each apartment even has a handy compositing caddy and recycling bin to help guests make the ethical choice.
“These are all simple, low-hanging fruit that anyone can do,” she said. “Reduce, re-use, recycle is our mantra and our method.”
So it’s no surprise that Linda’s next step involved transitioning to renewable energy. The goal was to create a closed energy loop, where electricity could be generated onsite to power other sustainable practices – like charging electric vehicles during the day and powering LED lights at night.
“We wanted to enjoy lower bills, backed by a sustainable source of energy,” she said.
Botanic Apartments’ switch to solar was years in the making, with Linda searching for the right experts to help her business become even more sustainable. This included consulting with Warrnambool City Council, who completed a green energy audit and provided guidance on further measures she could take.
In 2018, Linda attended a small business workshop hosted by the Council, where she heard from Sustainability Victoria. From there, she learned about the Sustainable Australia Fund, and realised this financial model was perfect for her and her business.
With funding enabled by Warrnambool City Council, Linda worked with Leahy’s Electrical Services to have a 20kW solar array installed on the site. Her project also marked the Sustainable Australia Fund’s debut in Warrnambool!
Juan Donis, Sustainability Officer at Warrnambool City Council, says the fact that local businesses can access Environmental Upgrade Finance will play a key role in their vision for the future.
“Through its long-term community plan, Warrnambool 2040, the city is committed to being the most environmentally sustainable regional city in Australia. An Environmental Upgrade Agreement presents a unique opportunity for businesses to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency to help them reduce their energy bills and carbon footprint.”
He adds that Botanic Apartments have set a tremendous example for other local businesses, and delivered “a great contribution towards achieving the Warrnambool 2040 goal.”
Since the solar panels were installed, Linda has seen a big increase in guest comfort, and enjoyed lower power bills. Previously, the business was forking out $700 a month, but within the first month after the installation they dropped down to $138 a month. They are now set to save $5,000 a year on electricity expenses – which translates to $125,000 over the life of the project.
Botanic Apartments will also significantly reduce their carbon emissions, with their solar system abating 21.9 tonnes of CO2 a year, the equivalent of taking nearly five cars off the road. That’s a whopping 547.5 tonnes of CO2 reduced over the life of the project – the same as nearly 70 homes’ worth of annual energy usage.
But the work doesn’t stop there; Botanic Apartments are gearing up for a second environmental upgrade, this time in rainwater capture, so guests can use harvested water during their stay.
With the loan repaid through Council rates, Linda is finding it easy to stay on top of her repayments.
“There’s no ongoing stress about bills,” she said, “and it doesn’t affect our existing potential to borrow money for further upgrades, so no need to re-mortgage the property!”
This feature is set to come in handy, as Linda has just taken on a second set of properties which need to be fitted with solar panels. But for now, she’s delighted by how sustainably the Botanic Apartments are running.
“People book with us because of our ethos and mission,” she said. “I’m very proud of what we’ve done.”
“There’s no ongoing stress about bills and it doesn’t affect our existing potential to borrow money for further upgrades, so no need to re-mortgage the property!” – Linda Close, Owner Botanic Apartments
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