Powerhouse Brookvale Launches

Powerhouse Brookvale project

Image: Google Earth

An ambitious project is seeking to turn a commercial precinct within Sydney’s Northern Beaches area into Australia’s first urban renewable energy zone.

Brookvale is situated around 16 kilometres north-east of Sydney’s CBD. It’s home to around 3,100 residents, hosts many businesses and is a major industrial area.

In the satellite image above, captured in early 2020, you may be able to pick out a few buildings with solar panels. There’s still a lot of commercial rooftop real estate in Brookvale suitable for generating clean energy. This could be providing big electricity bill savings for the businesses below them and profits for building owners, as well as the broader benefits associated with emissions reduction, exporting surplus clean power to the grid and jobs created in installations.

Brookvale’s Solar Energy Potential

The idea to turn Brookvale into an urban renewable energy zone was hatched by Solar Alliance, which consists of volunteers from Clean Energy for Eternity and Zero Emissions Sydney North. According to the Alliance, Brookvale has the potential to host around 40MW of rooftop solar capacity.

A quick back-of-virtual- envelope calculation indicates 40MW of solar capacity in Brookvale could generate 58.6 *million* kilowatt-hours of clean electricity annually, or 58.6 gigawatt- hours – enough to power the equivalent of around 10,000 Sydney households.

The Alliance’s goals for the project aren’t set that high initially – it is shooting for 20MW, which is still quite an ambitious target. It’s a big jump from the estimated 7,000 solar panels installed so far in Brookvale with a collective capacity of 2 MW.

“Case Study For The Nation”

The Northern Beaches Advocate reports Powerhouse Brookvale was launched on Monday night at an event hosted by The War on Waste’s Craig Reucassel. Among the guests and speakers were Zali Steggall OAM and Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan. Council is also supporting the program, including the provision of a $5,000 grant.

Ms. Stegall commented the project is going to be a case study for the nation.

The initiative will help businesses navigate the challenges of commercial solar; one of which is some will be operating in leased premises and getting landlords on board can be tricky. Though challenges exist, the rewards can be great for all involved. Many commercial solar installations achieve payback within five years, businesses are increasingly looking to green their power supply and customers tend to hold suppliers embracing renewable energy in high regard.

Another challenge is not all commercial rooftops are equal – some are “slender roofs“, built to minimum specification and not able to host the weight of conventional solar panels. It’s not clear whether slender roofs were factored into the Alliance’s assessment for potential capacity in Brookvale. But this is where emerging solutions such as SunMan Energy’s frameless panels and the upcoming Maxeon Air might be particularly useful, as they are just a fraction of the weight of “normal” solar panels.

On a related note, Northern Beaches Council was among the winners of the Cities Power Partnership Climate Awards 2021 for its renewable energy related efforts. It has installed more than 900 kilowatts of solar on Council buildings, among them a 265 kilowatt system on the Manly Andrew Boy Charlton Aquatic Centre. Last year, Northern Beaches Council made the switch to 100 per cent renewables-sourced mains electricity for its operations.

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.

Comments

  1. Michael Paine says

    Great to see my local Council & Zali supporting this initiative. A community battery would probably be a worthwhile addition to the system.

    • Michael Paine says

      It is not only “slender roofs” that could be an issue. Many of those industrial roofs are decades old and are likely to be asbestos-fibro – not great for installing PV panels!
      But I am sure there will be a sufficient number of suitable roofs available for a successful project.

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