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Solar farm powering Newcastle operations and revenue

City of Newcastle Media Release

A solar farm built by the City of Newcastle on a rehabilitated landfill site has exceeded expectations in its first six months of operation, generating almost twice the revenue it was expected to make annually.

The five-megawatt facility, which spans an area equal to five football fields at the City’s waste management centre, generated more than $420,000 in revenue between mid-November and the end of April, well above original forecasts used in the business case of $250,000 a year.

Selling energy back into the electricity market, the 14,500 photovoltaic-cell facility saw the Council become a net exporter of electricity when the January bush fires damaged the state’s energy grid.

A renewable power purchase agreement with a wind farm that came into effect on 1 January, making Newcastle the first NSW Council to be powered 100 per cent by renewables, saved the City a further $30,000.

“The business case showed the solar farm would save rate payers around $9 million, after costs, over its 25-year lifespan – and so far, it’s on track to do even better,” Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.

“The solar farm at our Summerhill Waste Management Centre has helped us exceed our renewable energy goals under the Newcastle 2020 Carbon and Water Management Action Plan, which targeted 30 per cent of our electricity needs from low-carbon sources.

“By combining solar installations, battery storage and the purchase agreement to power all our operations, the City has created a resilient energy strategy that will protect us from future electricity price spikes.

“Working in concert with the power purchase agreement, these investments give us price stability, create financial savings for rate payers and have already enabled us to reduce our operational carbon emissions by 77 per cent, compared to the 2008 baseline.”

Partly funded with a $6.5 million loan from Australia’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the solar farm is a “fantastic accomplishment” by a local government, says Climate Council of Australia’s Cities Power Partnership Director David Craven.

“City of Newcastle has again stepped up as leader in renewables and as a leader amongst local governments taking significant action on climate,” Mr Craven said.

“Renewable energy is the cheapest form of new energy generation and is proving to save Novocastrians millions, while creating a healthy future for this community.”

The City is also paving the way for electric transport by converting its fleet to electric vehicles and installing a charging network powered by solar panels and battery storage.

Meanwhile, the City is increasing solar-energy generation on its buildings.

“We recently added an additional 100-kilowatt roof top photovoltaic system to our Waratah Works Depot, doubling the capacity of the system installed onsite in 2013 and taking total generation of our 12 solar systems to almost 9 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy each year,” Councillor Nelmes added.

“Our five-megawatt solar farm and over 660 kilowatts of rooftop solar provide the equivalent energy needs of more than 1,770 Newcastle households a year with clean, renewable energy.”

For its commitment to renewables and reducing carbon emissions, the City won the prestigious Local Government Sustainability Award in 2019 and is currently a finalist for Environmental Leadership and Sustainability in the 2020 NSW Local Government Excellence Awards.

Aerial footage of the $8 million solar farm at the Summerhill Waste Management Centre west of Newcastle is available here.

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  1. Andrew Smith

    So it does work. How many mainstream media outlets desperate for easy new stories via press releases will not run this…?

  2. New England Cocky

    Why are there council buildings in New England without pv solar panels to generate power and profits for their respective ratepayers?

    Armidale Regional Council and nearby Uralla Shire Council have about six (6) large commercial solar farms within their boundaries but the Councillors have failed to see that there is a profit to be made by applying for government funding to build a pv solar farm on council land to generate electricity to be sold to the grid that will pay for the cost of electricity used by council activities.

    The answer for ARC is simple; it is not Armidale drinking water from Malpas Dam that is being ‘sold’ to Costa Guyra Tomato Farm and so will not further the political aspirations of the Mayor, a Guyra landholder, who lost a motion of no confidence from the Councillors who elected him to that position and refuses to follow protocol by resigning that position.

  3. wam

    So much time lost by these conservative blind denier bastards.(thankS boobby MMIX and again MMXiX)
    The CSIRO could be a world leader, again, if supported but these intelligent design anti-science religious nutters deliver cuts.
    Despite letters and facebook messages, it is so frustrating not to discover whether ALL pollies, got solar panels and batteries, like turnbull for their houses.
    My rich retiree sceptics already have their holiday shacks feeding into the grid as well their town house(s). because the deals were economic and money overcomes principles.
    On this matter our gov has been pretty good with:
    Plans to build the world’s largest solar farm in the Northern Territory have received support from what seems an unlikely ally — the Minerals Council.” plus we have millions of people closer than adelaide for tidal energy plus a port closer to Asia and a train direct to adelaide,
    NEC how is viv may going???

  4. B Sullivan

    If they could just take the next step and use the electricity generated by solar farms to extract hydrogen from water it would be game over for the fossil fuel industry. Everything that currently runs on fossil fuel can be converted to run on clean hydrogen, and in addition the potential of hydrogen cell technology could at last be realised.

    The argument that solar power is intermittent and doesn’t provide base load power would become completely unsustainable.

    Unfortunately Chief Scientist Alan Finkel is irresponsibly promoting the use of fossil fuel to produce the electricity that extracts the hydrogen gas instead, and both the Coalition and Labor are keen to go along with him arguing that solar farming won’t generate as many jobs as the mining industry with its massive billion dollar infrastructure requirements. They seem to be willfully blind to Australia’s very real capacity to provide all the worlds energy requirements utilising clean green solar hydrogen technology,

  5. New England Cocky

    Good news!! A new pv Solar Farm has been announced for Uralla NSW. Last night (260620) an ad during the NBN Newcastle news showed what can be done by thinking local councils dedicated to reducing their cost to ratepayers. I am advised that investment from from locals and others will be announced later. More details to come.

    @wam: VivMay the newly appointed Administrator to Armidale Regional Council, has discovered a very deep can of worms and expects to extend his appointment beyond the initial three months to clean up the mess left by a negligent Office of Local Government, now part of the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

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