Newcastle solar farm secures CEFC funding

Image courtesy of Newcastle City Council

A 5MW solar farm in New South Wales will begin construction in June after receiving $6.5 million in funding from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).

The project will be located west of the city at the Summerhill Waste Management Centre and will significantly reduce the Newcastle City Council’s annual $4 million electricity bill.

The solar facility, mostly financed through the CEFC’s Local Government Finance Program, will save the city around $9 million during its 30-year life after construction and operational costs are factored in.

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the solar farm would produce enough energy to power the equivalent of 1300 households.

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

“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.”

Council received development approval for the $8 million project from the Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) last month, and preliminary works are now underway at Summerhill.

Lendlease has teamed up with Energy Made Clean (EMC) to design and build the facility.

It will cover an area of around five football fields between Summerhill’s entry road and construction-waste area, on a capped landfill site that was once part of the Wallsend Borehole Colliery.

Electricity generated will flow into the nearby Ausgrid substation to offset electricity used at council facilities across the local government area.

The solar farm builds on one of Australia’s most advanced renewable energy setups at a waste facility with a 2.2MW landfill gas generator and a small wind turbine already located at Summerhill.

CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said the corporation was “delighted to work with Newcastle City Council on this landmark project, and to see its exciting transition to a sustainable city of the future”.

“Councils across Australia administer a vast network of streetlights, community centres, libraries, sport and recreation facilities and other public access buildings,” Mr Learmonth said.

“Newcastle is leading the way in financing a solar farm through the CEFC to help it manage the energy costs of these facilities.

“We encourage other councils to also invest in clean energy, which can free up council finance for other community-enhancing projects while locking in longstanding environmental and economic benefits for their communities.”