Bellingen Shire Council Adding More Solar Energy Capacity

Solar panels in Bellingen Shire

Bellingen Shire Council Embracing Solar Power | Image: Public Domain

From bins to building rooftops, Bellingen Shire Council has been getting into solar power in various ways – with more to come.

Council recently announced it is to proceed with installing solar power systems on two of its buildings, the first of fourteen more sites Council hopes to have harnessing the energy of the sun to generate clean electricity.

An additional sixty kilowatts of solar capacity will be installed on the roof of Council’s Administration Building in Bellingen, and close to fifty kilowatts at the Works Depot in Raleigh. According to Council, the new systems will generate 52% and 102% of the electricity requirements for these sites respectively.

“The installations come at a very fortuitous time, with households, businesses and councils all facing steep increases in the cost of electricity,” says part of a statement on the Council’s web site.

Other Council installations already in place include solar panels on Bellingen Library, Neighbourhood Centre, Tourist Information Centre and at Dorrigo Pool.

Bellingen Shire Council has also been trialing more novel applications involving solar power. Last year,  four ‘BigBelly’ Solar Bins were installed in Urunga and Bellingen. These smart bins compact waste using electric motors powered by a solar panel on top of the bin that charges an internal battery. The compaction means the bins don’t have to be emptied as often as they can hold up to 5x as much rubbish, and if they should become full before scheduled collection, staff are alerted via SMS.

BigBelly solar powered bins

Image: BigBelly

Solar PV is helping to slash Council’s electricity bills and reduce its carbon footprint, assisting it towards a goal of achieving a 40%  reduction on 1990 greenhouse gas emissions levels by 2020. Other efforts by Council include installation of variable speed drives on the blowers at the Bellingen Waste Water Treatment Plant and lighting upgrades at a number of Council facilities.

Council’s General Manager, Liz Jeremy  says the Shire and community “continue to be leaders when it comes to reducing the impact of climate change while at the same time saving money.”

Bellingen Shire is located on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales, just south of Coffs Harbour. Covering an area of 1,605 square kilometres, it has a population of around 14,000. Among the Shire’s major attractions is its State Forests and National Parks, which cover more than 53% of the local government area.

969 solar power systems are installed throughout Bellingen’s postcode (2454), with a collective output capacity of more than 2,788 kilowatts (data from Australia’s Clean Energy Regulator; as at May 1). There are also more than 1,000 solar hot water systems installed across the postcode region.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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