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Women in Renewables: Women helping women

Last year, Sydney Solar and Batteries worked with Australian Women in Solar Energy (AWISE) to install a solar system with battery backup at a Sydney women’s shelter. In this article, Sydney Solar and Batteries all-female solar installation team reflect on their life-changing experience of giving the gift of solar to help vulnerable women and their children get back on their feet.

Women helping women

Tell us about the project

In collaboration with Australian Women in Solar Energy, Sydney Solar and Batteries installed a complimentary solar and battery system at a women's shelter in Sydney. The system comprised of a 10 kWh BYD battery, 13.3 kW of REC solar panels, a Fronius Gen 24 10 kW symo inverter and Clenergy racking.

The project would not have been possible without the support and generous donations from Fronius Australia, BYD Australia, REC Solar ANZ and Clenergy Australia and Green-bank Environmental.

Why was it important for this project to happen?

Sydney Solar and Batteries saw this project as an excellent opportunity to give back to our local community using the collective skills of our team. As a business with a strong focus on empowering women in the solar industry, it was important for us to support another organisation striving to do the same.

With the women's shelter offering safe accommodation for a high volume of women and children escaping domestic violence, we wanted to give them the gift of solar – the gift that keeps on giving – to save on their electricity bills so that they could re-invest the savings back into their life-changing program.

Was it successful? How did you find the installation process? What was the feedback you received from the organisation?

The solar and battery system installation was extremely successful, with the shelter already reaping the benefits from their electricity bill savings.

The installation process was quite unique, with the location of the project needing to remain anonymous to protect the women and children who were residing there.

Since the installation, the feedback has been positive and the shelter has been able to re-invest the savings into other important projects and resources, allowing them to better assist their residents and help more women in need.

What things did you have to keep in mind or challenges did you have to overcome when working on this project?

One of our biggest focuses during this installation was always remaining conscious of the women and children residing at the centre. With many of these residents experiencing traumatic events – where they often feared for their safety – it was our team's top priority to ensure they always felt comfortable when our team was onsite. We found that having an all-female team to deliver this installation definitely helped put some of the residents at ease.

From a personal perspective, one of the biggest challenges was coming to terms with the number of women and children in our community who were using the facility to escape domestic violence. Seeing this reiterated to our team, that shelter and safety as well as the health and wellbeing of children are basic human rights, in which no one should fear going without.

What are the next steps from here? Will there be another installation?

Suppliers and manufacturers have already approached both Sydney Solar and Batteries and AWISE to do another project. This was such a rewarding install to be a part of that it is definitely something we are considering doing again.

What would you say to businesses or individuals out there that would like to support your work or get involved?

For any businesses looking to get involved in a community project of this kind, we encourage you to reach out to Australian Women in Solar Energy. Our wonderful team at Sydney Solar and Batteries are also more than happy to discuss our experience of this project further.

How can we as an industry encourage more women in to technical roles?

As an industry, we can support more women in technical roles by providing mentorships and hands-on workshops for women. To be able to get the skills, training and support required to work in the industry requires a network of supportive people, industry bodies and businesses that can facilitate the exchange of skills and knowledge – from simple things like using hand tools to identifying structures and materials onsite, to theory-based learning. We have so much to offer as a diverse group of people in the industry and we need to consider nurturing new talent that will add to the workforce.

This year's International Women's Day theme was 'Choose to challenge.' A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change. How did this project challenge gender stereotypes, common misconceptions, workplace relations and/or inclusivity in the workplace?

This project was challenging. Firstly, challenging in the face of domestic violence against women and children and seeing first-hand the need for people in our own community to seek shelter and a safe space away from violence.

We live in a world where domestic violence is hidden, where it is taboo to be spoken about. We may have been there during our upbringing, and we may be there now. It is seen as shameful, it is seen as disrespectful to speak up against the perpetrator. It is seen as embarrassing to talk about with friends and family. It affects our ability to go to work and to provide for our children as women. It affects our mental health. It is challenging for ourselves to be seen as good enough.

Industry wise, some of our challenges were overcome by creating a network of women in the industry who came together to facilitate this project. From organising donations for the project, project management and installation, and everything in between, we proved that it is possible with our collective skills to successfully carry out such a project.

We are all women coming together to help each other, and other women in the community that need support. Perhaps we have inspired others to do great things or challenged some of the women and children’s mindset in the shelter that there are people in the community that care and want to help them flourish. What we have done though is highlight that together we can achieve great things and affect positive change in our industry and in society.