Newcastle Council to build 5 MW array after power bill doubles in two years

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) will provide the Newcastle City Council with a $6.5 million loan to construct a 5 MW PV array at its Summerhill tip. The Council said the solar array will be the largest in the region.

“Increasing our renewable energy capability and finding more energy-efficient solutions is an integral part of our long-term vision to become a smart, liveable and sustainable city,” said Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes, in a statement. Newcastle targets generating 30% of its electricity from “low-carbon sources” and energy efficiency savings of 30% by 2020.

The CEFC made the loan as a part of its Local Government Finance Program. The Summerhill PV power plant is expected to save the council over $9 million in electricity bills over 30 years.

“Councils across Australia administer a vast network of streetlights, community centres, libraries, sport and recreation facilities and other public access buildings,” said CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth. “Newcastle is leading the way in financing a solar farm through the CEFC to help it manage the energy costs of these facilities.”

Carnegie-owned Energy Made Clean (EMC) has been selected to design and construct the array. It will be installed on a capped landfill site, which had previously been the site of a coal mine. Lendlease is acting as developer on the project. Carnegie announced the Summerhill project win last month.

The new solar farm will complement other renewable generation deployed at by the council at the site. It will be built alongside a 2.2 MW landfill gas generator and small wind turbine. The council says the renewables installed at Summerhill “paves the way” for battery storage and electric garbage trucks to be deployed in the future.

The 5 MW Summerhill array is one of nine solar projects the Newcastle Council is planning, as a part of the Climate Council’s Cities Power Partnership program. This includes solar array on the council’s art gallery, museum, works depot and libraries.

Approval of the project from regional planning authorities was received in February, and preliminary works are said to be underway. The project is expected to be completed before the end of the year.