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Coal city Newcastle prepares tender for 5MW solar farm

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One Step Off The Grid

The City of Newcastle’s plans to build a 5MW solar farm on a former landfill site are set to go to tender, after eight companies were shortlisted to bid for the job to design, build and operate the utility-scale solar farm.

Artist’s impression of the Summerhill solar farm, Newcastle. Source: City of Newcastle

The project, which was opened to expressions of interest in October last year, is part of the famous coal port city’s effort to source 30 per cent of its electricity needs from renewable energy by 2030, and cut its emissions by 30 per cent by the same date.

The Newcastle Council has already commissioned eight other solar installations – on the rooftops of public buildings including the art gallery, museum, works depot and libraries – in line with its 2020 Carbon and Water Management Action Plan, and recent climate action pledges made as part of the Cities Power Partnership.

The construction of the new 5MW solar farm at the Summerhill waste management centre will add to the already established 2.2MW landfill gas generator, as well as a small wind turbine – and paves the way for battery storage and electric garbage trucks.

According to the City of Newcastle, electricity generated by the solar farm will flow into the nearby Ausgrid substation and help offset usage at other Council facilities – a measure that is expected to generate millions of dollars in power cost savings, even with construction and operating costs factored in.

The City is also working to provide bicycling infrastructure and electric-vehicle chargers, and is installing energy-efficient LED lighting.

“With energy costs soaring and the cost of solar photovoltaic technology falling, the business case is now clear for councils to increase renewable energy use and take control of their energy costs,” said Newcastle City Council Interim CEO Jeremy Bath.

“We are seeing a boom in construction of solar farms across Australia and local councils will be one of the key beneficiaries from the experience the solar sector has developed.

“It’s also important for our community that we build sustainability into the way we do things, which is why we have moved quickly to increase renewable energy capability and find smarter, more energy-efficient solutions for our city’s needs. With the recent adoption of Council’s Smart City strategy, this latest project continues to chart the course for Newcastle as a smart, liveable and sustainable city.”

Newcastle is not the first Australian council to go down the utility-scale solar path, with Sunshine Coast Council building a 15MW solar farm that will generate enough electricity to cover the council’s entire consumption.

This article was originally published on RenewEconomy’s sister site, One Step Off The Grid, which focuses on customer experience with distributed generation. To sign up to One Step’s free weekly newsletter, please click here.  

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  • trackdaze

    The ball is officially rolling.

  • Joe

    Not sure if building on a former dump site is a good idea. Subsidence issues need to be dealt with. Don’t want to see the solarfarm sink into the ether.

    • Andrew Thaler

      as opposed to building housing subdivisions upon old coal mine areas…? Subsidence issues need to be dealt with. Don’t want to see the houses sink into the ether.