City powers into sustainable new era

04 Dec 2019

City of Newcastle confirmed itself as one of Australia’s most environmentally progressive councils today when it opened a new $6 million resource recovery facility and switched on an $8 million five-megawatt solar farm.

With a 5,000sqm undercover sorting area, the Resource Recovery Centre (RRC) at the Summerhill Waste Management Centre is now offering Newcastle residents the chance to drop off pre-sorted recyclable materials free of charge.

The RRC will increase waste diverted from landfill each year by around 5,700 tonnes, the equivalent of more than 30 Boeing 747s in weight, thanks to a 30,000-tonne processing capacity, with around 20 per cent of materials recycled.

Summerhill’s previous receival centre, by contrast, could process just 10,000-12,000 tonnes a year and saw just three per cent of dropped-off material recycled.

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes hailed the environmental win and the incentives offered by the RRC at today’s official opening.

“Residents who separate their waste before arriving at Summerhill will benefit from the new ‘Sort & Save’ drop-off service,” Councillor Nelmes said.

“This allows them to place scrap metals, sorted yellow bin recyclables, paper and cardboard, clean untreated wood and soft plastics directly into the identified stockpiles at no charge.

“Businesses who pre-sort their loads for drop-off at the RRC will also benefit from reduced tip fees. Unsorted waste is also welcome but will continue to be subject to the normal fees that cover staff and equipment needed to extract recyclables from mixed loads.”

While at Summerhill, the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen also inspected a newly completed solar farm built to save ratepayers around $9 million over its 25-year lifespan.

Covering an area the size of five football fields on a capped landfill that was once a coal mine, the solar farm's 14,500 photovoltaic cells are now producing 7.5 million-kilowatt hours of renewable electricity each year.

"The solar farm is generating enough energy to power the equivalent of 1,300 households, which is a significant environmental gain as well as reducing Council’s electricity costs by millions of dollars,” Councillor Clausen said.

"We will also become the first local government in NSW to move to 100 per cent renewables on January 1 thanks to our recent purchase-power agreement to source electricity from the state’s largest windfarm.

“The solar and wind farm combination will mean enough clean energy will be put into the grid to power every sportsground floodlight, local library, park BBQ and every other facility the City operates.”

The solar farm was partly funded with a $6.5 million loan from Australia’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation and $1 million was granted from the NSW Government's Environmental Trust, through its Waste Less, Recycle More Initiative, to the RRC.