Solar powers big projects

SOLAR energy is now powering both of Parkes’ new water and sewage treatment plants. Parkes Shire Council’s contractors, Autonomous Energy has installed 100 kilowatts (kW) of solar panels at the new Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) site and another 100 kW at the new Water Treatment Plant (WTP) site.

“The roll out of solar power systems at these sites is part of Council’s Distributed Energy Plan that was developed in 2011 to mitigate both potential climate change impacts and significant rises in power costs for council,” Parkes Shire Council’s Director Infrastructure Andrew Francis said. “The PV systems at the two major project sites will together produce approximately 612 megawatt hours (MWh) per year, which equates to the typical combined annual usage of 115 homes.”

Council is now looking into further solar power opportunities at other water infrastructure sites, as well as battery storage and virtual net metering options to improve utilisation and cost-effectiveness of its solar generation capacity. In the early phase of the Distributed Energy Plan Council installed over 200 kW of solar across its assets. Parkes’ steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through its focus on solar has caught the eye of the Climate Council – an independent nation body – following the latest release of data on Australia’s national pollution levels.

The Australian National Greenhouse Gas Inventory’s quarterly update report, released on August 4, shows national emission levels (excluding the land use and forestry sector), rose by 1.6 per cent during the March 2017 quarter. Emissions increased by a full 1 per cent in the year from March 2016 to March 2017. Council joined the Climate Council’s Cities Power Partnership program on July 19, which connects them with towns and cities throughout the country that are tackling climate change.

The Climate Council has described Parkes as a renewable energy trailblazer. A concentrated community development program in the town in 2013 saw over 300 households installing rooftop solar, making Parkes – at one point – the highest per capita adopters of solar in the state.

“Rising national emissions are a cause for concern, but locally we’re doing a lot of work to ensure that we are on track to a sustainable future,” Parkes Mayor Ken Keith OAM said. “Reducing our emissions and transitioning to clean energy isn’t just good for our environment – long term, it will also drive cost savings for our residents.”

Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie said the latest emissions data shows the crucial role that local action, such as the action Parkes is taking, can have in addressing rising emissions.

This article first appeared in the Parkes Champion Post on 15 August 2017.

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