Councils are committing to sustainable practices and renewable energy amidst the current Government’s intention to dismantle the Renewable Energy Target. They have implemented innovative renewable energy projects to reduce electricity bills and pass the financial, and environmental rewards back to the taxpayers in their communities.
Across Australia, councils are setting aggressive targets to become more energy efficient and support sustainable environments. The generation of electricity through solar PV is becoming a favorable choice of many councils across the country in both small-scale and large-scale systems.
The City of Sydney
The City of Sydney has a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the entire local area to 70% below 2006 levels by 2030. This includes a target of 30% of electricity from renewable sources. A major part of helping the city meet its renewable energy targets is the Solar Power Project. This is a major project that will install solar panels on around 30 sites including Sydney Park Pavilion, Paddington and Glebe Town Hall, as well as a range of libraries, community centres, depots and other public facilities. Sydney Town Hall installed a 48kWp solar system and Redfern Oval, home of the South Sydney Rabbitohs rugby club, now has a 55kW system that will generate over 80,000kW hours of electricity per year. When complete, the Solar Power Project is estimated to deliver 1.7 gigawatts per year, or 5.3% of current electricity demand when fully installed in 2016.
Lismore Council has a vision to become 100% renewable by 2023. Its first aim is to continue to reduce its energy usage, the second is to install solar panels on roofs, and third is to produce a large-scale farm. The council already has rooftop solar systems on a number of buildings and depots and has recently been awarded a tender for a 166kW solar PV – including a 100kW array at its materials recovery facility, a 30kW at its fleet workshop, a 20kW at its waste facility, a 15kW at the local airport, and a 1.5kW system at the Memorial Gardens Chapel.
Sunshine Coast Council
The Sunshine Coast Council has twenty-four council buildings and facilities with solar with a collective capacity of 158kW. Libraries, holiday parks, lifesaving clubs and mountain visitor centres contribute to the council saving 213 tonnes of greenhouse gases per year. There is now hesitation over funding, but the council still hopes to see the realisation of a 10MW solar farm that will mean significant financial savings that will benefit the council and be passed onto the community.
Cairns Courthouse, William McCormack Place was the first commercial building in regional (and tropical) Australia to be awarded a 6-star energy rating. The council owned building has a 63.84kWp roof mount solar PV system that will generate 319kWh per day that will provide power to the building and will offset an estimated 121 tonnes of CO2 per annum.
Mackay Regional Council
Mackay Regional Council also wants to lead the nation in sustainability and help strip hundreds and thousands of dollars off its power bills. It invested in numerous sustainable practices such as energy efficient air conditioning systems, energy efficient light bulbs, tap water saving devices and a 76kW grid-connected PV system. Last year the council saved $200,000 and its investment in energy saving practices enables the council to pass on the savings to its ratepayers.These are just a few examples of how councils across Australia are making long-term commitments to sustainability. Solar PV systems can empower councils and communities to take control of their energy bills and reduce their carbon footprint. However, the realization of many of the projects would not have been seen without the help of government grants and funding.
The uncertainty of the RET has put a hold on large-scale projects in particular and we could also see the abolishment of the small-scale government support such as the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES), which could deter businesses and households from investing in solar. Councils see huge benefits of investing in large-scale solar systems and the rewards of implementing smaller systems on their buildings. Solar provides the opportunity for councils and communities to prosper with clean, renewable energy for a sustainable future.
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Communications and PR Coordinator
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