More Solar Power For Port Stephens Council

Port Stephens Council - solar power

Port Stephens Council has a shiny new solar power system that will provide a very rapid payback and slash the building’s electricity related emissions.

The Council has installed 357 solar panels on the roof of its Administration Building in Raymond Terrace. It says the 99.96 kilowatt system will reduce annual main-grid energy consumption for the building by more than 25%.

“We want to keep Port Stephens beautiful, as does our community, so it’s important that we use our resources sustainably and efficiently,” said Council General Manager Wayne Wallis. “Port Stephens Council is always looking for ways to save money and reduce our environmental footprint – and solar is a proven way to make real and lasting savings for us and our community.”

Why 99.96kW?

Commercial solar power has become very popular in Australia due to high electricity prices, ongoing reductions in solar component costs, improvements in installation efficiency and a still-generous subsidy available.

Being 99.96kW, the system just scraped in under the 100kW limit for the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES), so Council could claim the “solar rebate” instead of having to deal with the complexities of the Large-scale Generation Certificate (LGC) system – LGCs have also tumbled in value.

A 99.96kW solar power system installed in the Port Stephens area is eligible for 1,657 Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs – which the solar subsidy is based on). At a current value of ~$37.50 each, this would have reduced the cost of the installation by approximately $62,000.

Council says it expects to achieve a return on investment in about four years.

Other solar installations on Port Stephens Council properties include a 30kW system on Tomaree Library and Community Centre.

Climate Change A Significant Challenge For Port Stephens

Aside from the bundle of bucks Council saved on the installation through the subsidy and what it will save on future electricity bills, solar energy will help Port Stephens Council reduce its electricity related emissions.

In a 2017 Community Strategic Plan Discussion Paper, Council notes the threat posed by climate change.

“Port Stephens is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and natural hazards as a low lying coastal area. The likelihood and severity of these hazards projected to increase in the future, presenting significant challenges for Council, the community and other stakeholders.”

Currently, there’s very little about Council’s direct efforts in relation to climate change on its web site – or information regarding solar power for that matter. Port Stephens Council doesn’t appear to be a member of the Climate Council’s Cities Power Partnership, which is made up over 100 councils from across the country (approximately 20% of all councils), representing almost 11 million Australians.

Port Stephens Council area residents and businesses are also embracing solar PV. Just in the Raymond Terrace postcode (2324), there are more than 2,769 small-scale installations, with a total capacity of just under 10 megawatts.

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.


  1. Peter Wooller says

    I read with interest your Blog regularly and am impressed with the growing amount of renewable energy being pumped into the Grid. If renewables are our cheapest form of power generation why is it significantly more expensive to purchase “Greenpower” through an electricity retailer?
    Is it a way of controlling the demand for green power and keeping coal fired power in the market or are they just ripping us off?

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Hi Peter

      The only way electricity retailers are permitted to offer “Greenpower” renewable electricity is by buying LGCs which are Large-scale Generation Certificates from large renewable generators such as solar and wind farms. Their price has fallen a lot as the large-scale Renewable Energy Scheme is being wound down. As a result of the fall in price the cost of greenpower has also fallen, but it should fall further. At the moment LGCs cost around 3.4 cents per kilowatt-hour while retailers are often charging 5 cents or more per kilowatt-hour for greenpower.

  2. Peter Wooller says

    Ronald, thanks for clarifying that. I was feeling guilty about putting power back into the grid but not buying it back by going for the cheaper option.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      I probably should have mentioned that buying green power does result in more renewable capacity being built. At the moment spending money on rooftop solar should be a more cost effective way to cut emissions for households, but maybe I could write an article pointing out that greenpower is becoming a better deal.

      • Hi Ronald
        >At the moment spending money on rooftop solar should be a more cost effective way to cut emissions for households
        I think that strictly speaking this isn’t true; from an overall point of view, if you claim STCs you have sold your emissions reductions to someone else and can’t claim the kudos for them any more.

        Likewise I think that if you are currently purchasing green power, and you switch to rooftop solar, your net emissions will increase unless you don’t claim your STCs.

        Being an Engineer I made a worked example for myself to make sure my gut feeling was accurate; can you see any assumptions which aren’t right?


        I lay out the two scenarios as follows, in terms of the green energy my actions are supporting:

        Before I installed solar:
        my daily average purchase: 15 kWh/day @ 100% greenpower
        AGL must purchase 116 STC of green energy

        Scenario 1:
        After I install solar, if I sell my STC to AGL (or other retailer):
        my daily average purchase: 5 kWh/day @ 100% greenpower
        my daily average generation: 30 kWh/day of solar
        AGL don’t need to purchase those 116 STC any more. The 116STC they would have bought from someone else is supplied by burning gas or coal instead.
        The STC are calculated so that my daily average generation roughly corresponds to the 116 STC, i.e. the two of these cancel out, so overall in this scenario I am now only directly supporting 5 kWh/day of greenpower, down from 15 kWh/day before.

        Scenario 2:
        After I install solar, if I keep my own STC (voluntary surrender):
        my daily average purchase: 5 kWh/day @ 100% greenpower
        my daily average generation: 30 kWh/day of solar
        AGL still need to purchase 116 STC of green energy (and what’s more, it costs them slightly more than if my STC were on the market, making it more profitable for green energy suppliers and hence slightly increasing the supply of green energy further).
        So overall in this scenario, I have increased the total green energy from 15 kWh/day + 116STC to 35 kWh/day + 116STC.

  3. Peter Wooller says

    Ronald, I think that would be a very good idea.
    Hope you have the time to write it.

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