Old Beechworth Gaol now has something that prisoners would have only dreamed of when they were incarcerated - solar power.
The iconic building became the first official customer of community energy network Indigo Power and the first in the North East with a community-owned solar system when it was symbolically switched on yesterday.
A 30-kilowatt solar power system and 89 solar panels on the roof will provide the gaol with 55 per cent of its energy needs and result in savings of more than $1000 in costs each year.
By joining with Indigo Power, and installing an "ubi" computer as part of the solar system, the gaol will eventually be able to store and share power with other homes and buildings across the Hume region that also join the energy network.
It uses the same model as the mini grids in Yackandandah residential estates, run by Mondo Energy - a subsidiary of Ausnet Services.
Indigo Power board member Ann Telford said homes would be able to join the system in a few months when the Indigo Power retail offering is launched.
"It's a great leap in actually making a statement that this community supports renewable energy," she said.
"It's great to have visionaries in our community saying we will fight against climate change, this is a national issue, this is critically important to the people of the North East and we're doing something today."
The money for the solar system came from philanthropists and shareholders who invested in Indigo Power.
"This is going to enable communities to share energy at a much reduced cost," Ms Telford said. "There is no limit what to can be done."
Old Beechworth Gaol's Clayton Neil said he was proud of Indigo Power for having a vision for community energy, without the federal government having its own renewable energy targets.
He said the solar system was a turnaround for the gaol that had no power at all until the early 1990s.
"It's cold in winter and hot in summer and trying to find an energy solution was top of our list," he said.
"The fact we've been able to bring this technology into the site now is quite amazing."
Retiring Indi MP Cathy McGowan said she was proud to have been involved as the community worked themselves to make a difference in climate change.
"In being here today to flick to switch, I'm just proud and pleased that not only in politics are we making a change, but truthfully it's in the community engagement and communities saying we can do it"
"It demonstrates that you can do things and do things in the country, in fact we're leading the way."
Independent candidate Helen Haines was also at the event, dressed in an orange jacket, as an Indigo Power board member.
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