Solar eclipses coal at council waste centre

01 Sep 2017

A 5MW solar farm at the Summerhill Waste Management Centre will increase Newcastle City Council's renewable energy generation capacity tenfold.

The proposed solar farm will cover an area of around five football fields on a capped landfill site that was once part of the Wallsend Borehole Colliery.

Made up of around 16,000 photovoltaic solar arrays, it will help reduce the city's $4m annual electricity costs after the yearly bill doubled in the past two years.

Artist's impression of the Summerhill solar farm

The project will also help council achieve its 30 per cent renewable energy target -- under its 2020 Carbon and Water Management Action Plan -- and follows recent climate action pledges made as part of the Cities Power Partnership.

"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."

A tender will be issued to eight shortlisted respondents for the design, construction and operation of the solar farm after a feasibility study and expression of interest process last year.

Following the tender, the project will be reported to council for approval and funding.

The solar farm continues development of one of the most advanced renewable energy setups at a waste facility -- with a 2.2MW landfill gas generator and a small wind turbine already located at Summerhill -- and paves the way for battery storage and electric garbage trucks.

Electricity generated will flow into the nearby Ausgrid substation and help offset usage at other Council facilities, providing predictable electricity costs and millions of dollars in savings, even with construction and operating costs factored in.

Newcastle recently joined the Cities Power Partnership, a Climate Council program in which cities and towns pledge key actions to reduce their climate impact.

Summerhill's solar farm and eight existing solar installations - on the rooftops of public buildings including the art gallery, museum, works depot and libraries - form part of the actions endorsed by Council.

Others include promoting more sustainable ways to travel, by providing cycling infrastructure and electric-vehicle chargers, and installing energy-efficient LED lighting.

For further information or interviews please contact Newcastle Council's media unit on 4974 2264 or email