Newcastle unveils 5 MW solar farm on disused landfill

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The City of Newcastle has switched on a 5 MW solar farm that will cover all of the local council’s daytime electricity needs. Covering an area the size of five football fields on a capped landfill that was once a coal mine, the Summerhill Solar Farm is a major step towards the Council’s ambitious 100% renewables target from 2020 and beyond.

The $8 million solar project was initiated last year in an attempt to reduce the council’s $4 million annual electricity bills after they doubled over the previous two years. The City of Newcastle secured a $6.5 million loan from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and $1 million from the NSW Government’s Environmental Trust, through its Waste Less, Recycle More Initiative to build the Summerhill solar project, which is touted as the largest in the region.

The Summerhill Solar Farm consists of 14,500 solar panels that will generate an estimated 7,500 MWh annually or enough energy to power the equivalent of 1,300 households. The project was built alongside a 2.2 MW landfill gas generator and small wind turbine, transforming Newcastle City Council’s Summerhill Waste Management Centre, located at the former Wallsend Borehole Colliery site, into a renewable energy hub.

The project launch follows the Council’s commitment to pursue a 100% renewables target up from its previous 2020 goal of only 30% clean energy. After a study found that a full switch to renewables would save ratepayers between $3.8 million and $4.8 million, the City inked in October a 10-year power purchase agreement with energy retailer Flow Power for output from the 270 MW Sapphire Wind Farm in the New England region.

“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,” said Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen. “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.”

Home to the world’s largest coal exporting harbour, Newcastle has a number of sustainability initiatives on the ground, including a $6 million resource recovery facility at the Summerhill Waste Management Centre opened this week. With a 30,000-tonne processing capacity, the Resource Recovery Centre is now offering Newcastle residents the chance to drop off pre-sorted recyclable materials free of charge.