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Sydney switches to 100% green power

The City of Sydney has switched to 100% renewable electricity, generated from wind and solar farms in regional NSW. All of the City’s operations — including streetlights, pools, sports fields, depots, buildings and the Sydney Town Hall — will now be run on renewable electricity.

The green energy deal — valued at over $60 million —is reported to be the biggest of its kind by a council in Australia.

The switch is projected to save the City up to half a million dollars a year over the next 10 years, and reduce CO2 emissions by around 20,000 tonnes a year —equivalent to the power consumption of more than 6000 households.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the new agreement will generate jobs, support communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and create new opportunities in drought-affected regional NSW.

“We are in the middle of a climate emergency. If we are to reduce emissions and grow the green power sector, all levels of government must urgently transition to renewable energy,” the Lord Mayor said.

“Cities are responsible for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, so it is critical that we take effective and evidence-based climate actions.

“The City of Sydney became carbon neutral in 2007, and [was] the first government in Australia to be certified carbon neutral in 2011. This new deal will see us reach our 2030 target of reducing emissions by 70% by 2024, six years early.

“This groundbreaking $60 million renewable electricity deal will also save our ratepayers money and support regional jobs in wind and solar farms in Glen Innes, Wagga Wagga and the Shoalhaven.”

The innovative green electricity deal is a power purchase agreement with retailer Flow Power. Flow Power CEO Matthew van der Linden said the City’s commitment to achieving 100% renewable energy would help accelerate Australia’s transition to a net-zero carbon future.

“This is a landmark achievement for the City of Sydney. If organisations can follow in the City’s footsteps, a net-zero carbon future is achievable,” van der Linden said.

“The City is directly matched to these renewable projects, a move that supports the integration of renewables into the system.”

Around three-quarters of the power will be wind-generated, and the remaining quarter by solar.

The project will see the City source renewable energy from three different generators — the Bomen Solar Farm in Wagga Wagga, Sapphire Wind Farm near Inverell and the Shoalhaven solar farm in Nowra.

The Shoalhaven project is being developed by Flow Power in partnership with local community group Repower Shoalhaven, a not-for-profit volunteer community enterprise that develops community solar projects. On completion, the 3 MW Shoalhaven solar farm will have around 10,000 panels and generate enough energy to power 1500 homes.

On behalf of Repower Shoalhaven, member Bob Hayward said the power purchase agreement will directly support the regional community.

“Shoalhaven solar farm could not have become operational without the City’s investment. By partnering with this project, we’re creating local jobs and helping the renewables sector grow,” Hayward said.

“The City of Sydney decision to include a regional community-based scheme brings us a step closer to a sustainable decarbonised future while supporting regional investment and employment. We congratulate the City for this significant commitment.”

Owned by the Australian-listed company Spark Infrastructure, the 120 MW Bomen Solar Farm has more than 310,000 solar panels on 250 ha of land. It is one of the first projects in Australia to use bifacial panels that absorb sunlight on both sides, with tracking technology that shifts each panel throughout the day to capture the sun’s energy.

Spark Infrastructure Chief Executive Rick Francis said this is an exciting milestone for the City of Sydney and the regional communities playing an increasingly critical role in the state’s energy supply.

“This project has not only delivered clean energy for Australia’s largest city, but represents a significant investment in the Wagga Wagga community and Riverina region, anchoring the region’s role as a future renewable energy hub for NSW,” Francis said.

The Sapphire Wind Farm near Inverell is the largest wind farm in NSW, with a 270 MW capacity generated by 75 turbines that stand 200 metres high. It is partly owned by CWP Renewables, with CEO Jason Willoughby saying the company was proud to support the City’s renewables program.

“Wind is a natural energy choice providing a much-needed alternative to fossil fuels. We hope this inspires other councils and organisations to follow the City of Sydney’s lead,” Willoughby said.

“The Sapphire Wind Farm produces enough clean energy to power 115,000 homes and displaces 700,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, while bringing economic benefits to the local NSW New England region and the ACT.”

Image caption: Repower Shoalhaven’s Bob Hayward on the Shoalhaven solar farm site. Image credit: City of Sydney.