Singleton Council’s Solar Power Cash Splash

Solar energy in Singleton

New South Wales’ Singleton Council is spending close to a million dollars on a solar power and LED lighting rollout this year.

Singleton Shire is a local government area in New South Wales’ Hunter Region – which has traditionally been coal country. Home to around 23,496 people as at the last Census, 22% of the LGA’s workforce is employed in coal mining. But as with other local government areas in the Hunter Region, Singleton Council is aware of the pressing issue of climate change.

“Singleton Council believes in the importance of thinking long term, and with the mining industry supplying not only power but also jobs for the local economy, it is important that we start to transition our community towards a more sustainable future.”

At its meeting last week, Council awarded the tender for a $977,425.10 (ex GST) project involving the installation of solar power systems and LED lighting that is expected to be completed at the end of this year.

Twelve Council sites are to have solar panels installed – among them:

  • Council’s Administration Building and Auditorium – 99.5kW
  • Visitor Information Centre – 35kW
  • Library – 35kW
  • Water Treatment plant – 35kW

Council is expecting total energy cost savings of around $126,652 per year, with a simple payback of seven years. Solar installed at two sites – the Gym & Swim and the sewage treatment plant (capacities not mentioned) – will make up more than $83,000 of the annual savings. The two facilities were identified as Council’s biggest energy guzzlers.

“It’s about realising the opportunity to reduce our electricity expenditure to divert those savings back into the community, and at the same time to role model good environmental sustainability with the solar panels and inverters,”  said Mark Ihlein, Council’s Executive Manager Projects.

It’s not clear from Singleton’s web site, but these may be Council’s first PV installations. The project is part of  the Singleton Sustainability Strategy 2019-2027.

Promoting Solar Energy Within The Community

As part of its 2021/22 Operational Plan, Council is capturing baseline data of renewable energy usage in the Singleton LGA and preparing a report outlining barriers, opportunities and impacts associated with establishing renewable energy generation within its area.

In Singleton, solar panels are already a common sight on rooftops across the community, with more than 2,565 small-scale systems installed as at the end of February this year. But there are still a bunch of rooftops that could be harvesting the power of the sun.

In collaboration with the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, Council will be promoting programs and subsidies available to households and businesses to assist them with improving energy efficiency and installing renewable energy infrastructure such as solar panels.

Singleton Council has also recently joined the Climate Council’s Cities Power Partnership, but their CPP page is yet to be populated with information. After signing on to the CPP, members have 6 months to choose their pledges.

The Hunter is the first region in Australia where all councils are signed up to the Partnership – this is particularly significant given the region’s association with coal. These forward-thinking councils have seen, understood and are acting on the writing on the (long)wall.

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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