Mackay council goes solar – and saves big – with city-wide rollout

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Mackay Council awards tender to install solar PV on 21 local government facilities, saving nearly 10 times its outlay over 20 years. But the bid price stuns rivals.

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One Step Off The Grid

Queensland’s Mackay Regional Council has become the latest Australia local government to shift its operations to solar, in a bid to cut its electricity costs and pass millions of dollars of savings on to ratepayers.

The council – in the heart of one of the state’s biggest coal regions – says a tender to install 1.7MW of solar at 21 council facilities – including the main administration building, libraries, depots and water assets – has been awarded to Brisbane-based firm Akcome Power for $2.1 million.

Council said that cost would be offset by $541,890 in small-scale renewable energy certificates, taking the actual price of the project – once other council and contingency costs are included – down to just over $1.97 million.

That is going to provide a significant return for the council, with the investment paid back on average in four years, and total savings on electricity bills over the next 20 years estimated at $16.89 million – even after maintenance and replacement inverters.

It will also include taking one council depot “off-grid” with 40kW of solar and 20kWh of battery storage as a “trial” – although the network connection will stay in place for up to two years “just in case.”

“Council, like households, has been hard hit by rising electricity prices,’’ said Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson in comments on Friday.

“This fairly modest initial outlay is an investment in the future which will provide ongoing cost savings.”

The awarding of the tender came after a bidding process that was narrowed down from 16 applicants to four finalists, and the pricing offered by Akcome stunned its rivals, coming in at more than $1 million below two rivals bids, and $850,000 below the nearest contender.

The other companies were Solgen, Linked Group, and Green Energy Technology. (You can read the tender details and council considerations here from page 244).

“This would have to be a new record for pricing,” said one rival bidder. “Even for megawatt  scale installations I have not seen this.”

The equipment proposed to be used by Akcome includes Huawei and ABB inverters – with 10 year warranties – and unspecified solar panels with 30-year warranties. It is likely that it is the pricing of the solar modules that would be the difference for the China-linked Akcome.

Council said the winning tender had been reviewed by consultancy Peak Services, which reviewed the pricing and the credentials of the winning bidder and declared it to be satisfied.

The council says the decision to go solar will boost the local economy, and generate a number of jobs over the course of the project.

“Akcome has advised it will engage local Clean Energy Council of Australia-accredited electricians, as well as local non-accredited experienced electricians to work with them, plus local trades assistants,” Mayor Williamson said.

“They expect to use 60 to 70 per cent Mackay-area based tradespeople to complete the installation.”

Council noted that it had initially investigated investing in large-scale renewable energy projects through an expression of interest (EOI) process, but found they were “not financially viable at this time.”

This graph above shows the anticipated return on one of the facilities, on Civic Centre, which will install 100kW of rooftop solar for $93,000, delivering net savings of $854,000 over 20 years.

As we have reported on One Step, local governments around Australia have in many cases taken the lead on installing renewable energy resources, with a growing number of councils turning to solar, in particular, to cut their costs and in turn cut costs for ratepayers.

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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12 Comments
  1. palmz 5 months ago

    The price discrepancy between the winner and the next three bidders would have me concerned.

    A difference of 28% is a lot considering that the second bid was less than 5% cheaper than the third best bid. (I did ignore the STC’s) I hope they looked at all of the specks very closely.

    Great result for rate payers by the looks of it anyway.
    congratulations Mackay council

  2. George Darroch 5 months ago

    Another week, another council going solar.

  3. RobertO 5 months ago

    Hi All, Our school is having 76 kW installed (about $70,000 including 5 years cleaning and monitoring signed in early November 2017) and is due to be turned on this Saturday (if they can complete it), last week we had 2 houses signed for 12 kW each with micro inverters at $17,000. About 6 years ago we had a quote for 10 kW on the school roof at (+side of) $50,000. The prices are continuing to drop.

    • Brad 5 months ago

      Good idea for councils who use most of their power during the day

      Crap idea for households who use most of it at night

      I’ve just recently installed another 5kw system on top of my existing 2kw system

      Thanks to monopoly provider Ergon who decided not to pay for any power exported on the new system my payback time is roughly 20 years

      You can stick your green energy where the sun doesn’t shine

      • MaxG 5 months ago

        No pay = no export.
        I suggest you self consume, and export limit. Your equipment will last longer! 🙂 … or add a bttery, and you’ll be laughing.

      • RobertO 5 months ago

        Hi Brad, so what is your problem? Did your research on what you were planning and got it wrong, got greedy and got caught out, or were you just plain stupid.
        I work with a bunch of climate change deniers whom 6 years ago were told of an idea to produce income for the school (about $50 k to $300 k), to save the school electrical bill of $50 k to $100 k (current bill $270 k) to then recycle water at school (saving about $25 k) then installing solar on all available roof tops (H20 and Solar paid for by 50% of saving and 50% of income to school from this idea). Just this month they have spent $20 k on pipe work that was covered in this idea. They are in discussions about a power pole that fell over 30 Jan this year that the idea would have removed ($16 k to replace it).
        When I was researching the idea I talk to the Australian Gov about the idea and the person said to me “Do not spend a penny until you have submitted the application, because I believe that we would give you a grant (100%) to do this, but we cannot refund any money if you start with this idea!”
        I am still waiting for permission to write the application.
        Are they stupid? Yes!
        Are we doing any of this to produce green energy! NO!
        We are doing the solar to save money. YES!
        Even the houses will save money (payback for the school is 5 years, houses is 6 years).
        Note that I have forcast that electrical prices will rise for the next 4 years befor it starts to drop in price so the last part of payback may be extended. The NEG will add to price, the devaluation of the poles and wires will reduce the price. FF and limited competition will drive prices up.

        • Brad 5 months ago

          Wow Its a real live climate alarmist

          I guess I was plain stupid trusting an accredited retailer/installer

          I should have realised the industry was full of dodgy cowboys

          Greedy, oh I wouldn’t say greedy just trying to alleviate the rather large electricity bills, however if you think I should have paid $8000 just to save the planet then maybe you can sling me another 8K and I’ll put another 5kw system on.

          • RobertO 5 months ago

            Hi Brad, So what if I am a real live climate alarmist, I still follow the money because that is the only thing that most people have a minor understanding of (and even then some people fail to comprehend the trail).
            Our RWNJ’s believe that we need a new coal power station in NQ because RE cannot provide “Baseload”! There are no such electrons for baseload, they do not exist. The money trail of coal is it costs more to install new coal than new RE with storage, and shortly it will cost more to feed the coal power station than to build new RE power supply’s with backup.

            So cross the Tee’s and Dot the i’s

            Check your power bill, new system should show up as exports. Get ERGON to confirm that you’re getting $0.00 for your “Fit” Remember to write down on the bill that you are looking at, date, time, number called (especially 13 or 18 as they are easily traced and use a fixed line rather than a mobile call) and whom you talked to. Get your letter of complaint (tell them what happen, what you were told and what you were lead to believe) off to ACCC, to your local pollie, your fed local pollie, and to your state gov dept of fair trading. Sometimes it only take one letter to get the system changed and the three other will ignore your letter.

          • Brad 5 months ago

            Sorry to reply a bit harshly I just overeacted to you calling me greedy or stupid.

            I have contacted Ergon, they claim they told the supplier that I would not be paid the fit on the new system

            So at this stage I will give them a chance to rectify it

            Maybe they can setup the 2kw system to heat the hot water system and have the 5kw system as the export tariff system

            I will see how it goes

            Thanks for your advice.

          • RobertO 5 months ago

            Hi Brad, Do not wait as sometime things take months to fix (and some companies will not back date the fix). Tell your pollies (and do not forget a change of Fed Gov may change your fed pollie), tell ACCC and dept. of fair trading.
            In 1984 I asked Sydney Water Board about pumping sewage off shore in Sydney. The answer was we pump 100% off shore with no treatment. Today 2018 Sydney Water Corporation still pump some 25% sewage off shore with no treatment about 50% (possibly up to 60 %) with primary and the remainder with secondary treatment (which started in April 2017) LA in the USA started in 1955 (all primary treatment) and in 1997 had full secondary treatment). In Australia in 1989 an engineer said to me the “solution to pollution was dilution, which was no longer acceptable!”

  4. Gregory J. OLSEN Esq 5 months ago

    Great news! A perfect example for the Central Coast Council’s new CEO, Gary Murphy, formerly of Lismore City Council, to follow! 🙂

  5. RobertO 5 months ago

    Hi All, Our school joined the revolution on Saturday, but only partly. Only 1 building connected (and even then only partly connected?) 21 kW was the reading at 3 pm Sunday. They will be back to do more this week and again possibly Saturday to complete the system.

Comments are closed.