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Sydney to be Home to Australia’s Largest Multi-Roof Solar PV Installation

The City of Sydney looks like it will claim the crown for the country’s largest rooftop PV installation, with a 1.25-megawatt (MW) installation edging out current record-holder University of Queensland’s 1.2-MW system by just 50 kilowatts (kW). Although questionable whether the arrays constitute a single monolithic ‘system’, the tender for the project encompasses greater nominal peak capacity than any other rooftop project in Australia.

Sydney Town Hall Solar Panels

Sydney Town Hall Solar Panels

The systems, whose installation will take place over the next 2 years, will be spread across 30 properties in the City of Sydney, such as Town Hall House, Glebe, Redfern and Paddington town halls, the Redfern Oval grandstand, Railway Square bus station, plus a number of libraries, council depots, and community centres within the CoS jurisdiction. The system will supply roughly 12.5% of the electrical power needs of city council properties, funded using the $2 million/year budget previously allocated to purchasing GreenPower, and will complement the existing solar PV on rooftops of 18 other city properties. The solar plans fall into the greater framework of the City of Sydney’s plans for 2030, which include producing enough power to meet local electricity needs by 2030, and reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 and 70% by 2050.

Sydney’s solar project is an indication of the growing viability of commercial-scale solar power in this Solar Feed-in Tariff-free environment. In the absence of FiTs or affordable and efficient energy storage technology, solar’s strong suit is powering buildings that are occupied and consuming electricity during the day. In combination with an effective regimen of energy saving, efficiency, and awareness amongst those who occupy the buildings daily, solar PV is an excellent tool for both saving money and reducing CO2 emissions.

Although the main purpose of the 1.25MW of forthcoming solar PV installations is to trumpet the council’s green ambitions, underlying this seems to be the business case for investing in solar PV vs GreenPower, according to insights by Nigel Morris of Solar Business Services. Although in the short term, the price of producing solar power will be more expensive, the rising price of grid power means that producing solar power will likely be more cost-effective in the long-term, especially in light of the City’s localised power generation goals.

“The City of Sydney is delivering on its commitment to reduce carbon pollution by 70 per cent and produce 30 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 — one of the most ambitious programs of any Australian government,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore said in a media statement.

“The solar PV project produces no pollution when generating electricity — unlike coal-fired power, which is responsible for 80 per cent of our pollution.”

“Energy produced locally through solar panels, trigeneration systems or fuel cells will reduce the need to spend billions of dollars on new coal-fired power stations and network upgrades, which are driving up household electricity bills,” the Lord Mayor said.

Further proof of its desire to stand out as a leader amongst Australia’s local councils in the field of greenhouse gas emissions abatement, Sydney has even chosen to forego the effective federal government subsidy that is usually afforded to renewable power generation systems through the Renewable Energy Target. The city chose to ‘retire’ the Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) rather than sell them. This was done “so that the City’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through renewable energy projects will go beyond the Federal Government’s Renewable Energy Target — increasing the amount of renewable energy generated in Australia,” according to a tender committee document.

The price tag for the project is $6 million, meaning that the overall cost per watt comes out $4.80, compared to a cost of between $2 and $3 watt for more competitive large-scale installations. In addition to the forfeited REC benefit, the cost difference can be further accounted for by considering the other factors involved. These include the broad, holistic, and community-focused nature of the city’s solar plans (and associated costs), the varied nature of the installations themselves (most are standard installs, but BIPV and solar electric vehicle charging points also appear in the list), as well as the top-end expertise and components that are to be employed.

Top image via City of Sydney

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James is the communications manager for Australian energy technology company SwitchDin, which provides visibility & control functionality for diverse fleets of distributed solar & battery systems. He lives in Newcastle, NSW in a house with two solar PV systems and three energy monitoring systems.


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