Newcastle City Council to save with solar

Newcastle City Council has secured a $6.5 million loan from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to help build the region’s biggest solar farm.

The 5 MW installation, west of the city at the Summerhill Waste Management Centre, will significantly reduce Council’s annual $4 million electricity bill, after it doubled in the past two years.

The solar facility — construction of which is expected to begin in June — will save the city around $9 million over its 30-year life after construction and operational costs are factored in.

The installation’s 14,500 panels will be built by international property and infrastructure group Lendlease, with most of the finance lent through the CEFC’s Local Government Finance Program, which offers councils flexible and competitive fixed-rate, long-term finance.

“I’d like to thank the Clean Energy Finance Corporation for its incredible support of the City of Newcastle’s sustainability charter,” Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.

“The solar farm will produce enough energy to run the equivalent of 1300 households, which promises significant environmental returns for ratepayers and millions of dollars in savings on electricity costs.

“We are building sustainability into everything we do after reiterating our commitment last year to generate 30% of our electricity needs from low-carbon sources and cut overall electricity usage by 30% by 2020.”

Newcastle City Council 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 other solar installations already installed on the rooftops of Newcastle City Council buildings, including an art gallery, museum, works depot and libraries, are part of actions endorsed.

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

The Newcastle project reflects the CEFC’s goal to invest $1 billion over 10 years to accelerate clean energy and energy-efficient technology solutions in cities and the built environment, through its Sustainable Cities Investment Program.

This article first appeared on Technology Decisions on 11 March.

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