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$2.5 million grant to teach Illawarra kids about renewable energy

The Bugle App

Amy Molloy

05 July 2024, 10:00 PM

$2.5 million grant to teach Illawarra kids about renewable energy

As controversy surrounds the Illawarra offshore wind zone blows on, the University of Wollongong (UOW) has been awarded a $2.5m grant from the Australian Government to teach local children and visitors about future energy sources.

The money will be used to create an ‘Energy Futures Zone’ at the UOW Science Space —  a fun-filled science centre housed on the University grounds which, since opening in 1989, has become the number one indoor attraction in the Illawarra.

The Future Energy Zone will feature 25 “vibrant and interactive” exhibits focusing on technologies such as hydrogen, wind, solar, wave and gravity, according to the University.

The goal is to “educate visitors about the importance and mechanics of energy generation”, while also “highlighting potential careers in the growing field of energy futures”. 

Many UoW faculty members are supporters of the Illawarra offshore wind zone — a declared area of 1022 km2 off the coast from Wombarra to Kiama.

In an UoW blog, Ty Christopher, Director of the Energy Futures Network at University of Wollongong, wrote offshore wind farms were “crucial for Australia’s industrial decarbonisation efforts.”

In 2022, the Australian Government announced $10m to establish an Energy Future Skills Centre at UOW. When completed, it will offer courses, jointly designed by UOW and TAFE NSW, to “train the energy workforce of the future” and offer “clean energy support” for businesses to operate more sustainably. 

This Science Space aims to start this education early, with more than 68,000 visitors — largely school-age — visiting the centre annually.

Director of Science Space, Stuart Creal, said the Energy Futures Zone will be the most significant transformation for the centre in 35 years.

“This new gallery will not only provide a deeper understanding of sustainable energy technologies but also inspire future generations to pursue careers in this vital field,” he said. 

“By showcasing innovations from leading companies such as Hysata and Green Gravity, we aim to highlight and showcase the cutting-edge advancements that are shaping our energy future.”

A local mother, whose partner works in one of the Wollongong collieries, said, “It sounds like a great addition to the Science Space. My kids always wants to know what daddy does for work but we talk openly about the pros and cons of coal mining.” 

“They’re probably going to grow up seeing a wind farm on the horizon. If they want to work in energy that’s great but let’s give them a more environmentally-friendly option.”