5 MW solar farm in coal country nears completion


If you’ve had the good fortune to find yourself as a guest at the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley in the last ten months, you may have noticed an unusual sight outside your hotel room window in the heart to NSW coal country, the sight of 13, 350 solar panels.

The 5 MW installation was first conceived in 2016 by Jerry Schwartz, Australia’s largest private hotel owner, and, indeed, owner of the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley located in Lovedale. The $8.5 million solar farm was approved by Cessnock City Council and the Joint Regional Planning Panel in December 2018 and construction began the following February.

In addition to removing the CO2 equivalent of 4,300 vehicles from the roads annually, the solar farm will generate a significant portion of the Crowne Plaza’s energy requirements, as well as those of the Hunter Valley Conference & Events Centre and Sydney Brewery. Schwartz’s goal is to guide all his properties to 100% renewable energy usage.

This is not the first solar installation at the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley. Three years ago a large array of rooftop solar panels was installed on the hotel spelling out ‘Lovedale’. Though the array generates 99.58 kWp, one wonders whether laying out solar panels in such a way as to provide geographical verification for passing aviators is the most efficient way of going about things.

Nevertheless, Schwartz said environmental and sustainability best-practice needed to be at the heart of all hotels’ operations. “It is particularly important to showcase renewable energy in the heart of a region still known for its coal mining,” said Schwartz. “Tourism is the sustainable industry of the future for the Hunter Valley, and to make the hotel, convention centre and brewery 100% renewable is an important initiative.

The final touches are now being put on the solar farm, high voltage cabling, new power poles and switching gear is currently being installed for connection to Ausgrid’s infrastructure. Finally, the recent delivery of two inverters to the site and the construction of electrical switch room mean the solar farm will be able to start generating clean solar energy by the end of November 2019.

The Schwartz Family Company is a founding member of the World Green Council, and has been gradually installing solar across its extensive property portfolio in NSW.

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