Solar panels floating on Goulburn Mulwaree Council’s water storages may become a thing of the future if the economics stack up.
Investigations are underway to install more solar, not just on council buildings but Marulan and Goulburn water supplies. It’s part of a broader thrust to reduce greenhouse gases by 30 per cent by 2020 based on 2005/06 levels.
“It’s (solar) very much part of our sustainability action plan and aim to reduce our carbon footprint,” general manager Warwick Bennett said.
He told The Post that while floating solar panels hadn’t been utilised greatly in Australia, they generated more power on water than on roofs. The council will start with the Marulan water treatment plant to gauge its success. Mr Bennett said it could be more practical there, given the storage dam’s close distance to the plant, compared to Goulburn where Sooley and Pejar Dams were much further away from the city’s treatment facility.
The idea is to offset power costs using renewable energy. The council forked out $1.55 million in 2016/17 on electricity consumption, mainly powering water and sewer infrastructure and street lights. It compared with $1,379,000 in 2015/16, according to financial statements.
The council will call for expressions of interest before Christmas in a feasibility study encompassing solar and bio-gas generation. Solar panels are already used on several council buildings but there are plans for more. Bio-gas is pegged for the new $30 million wastewater treatment plant, currently under construction.
At the most recent council meeting, councillors decided to install a 45 kilowatt solar system on the new warehouse at its Hetherington Street depot. The building, housing the store and records, has a 1000 square metre footprint and can accommodate a solar system on 20 per cent of its roof area, operations director, Matt O’Rourke says.
The power will be used to offset the depot’s operations and any surplus sold into the grid. The estimated cost of the work is $38,026.
Cr Peter Walker asked that other council buildings be also considered, in addition to LED street lighting. He argued there were more opportunities to use both.
He requested that more information come to a briefing session, a closed forum, enabling councillors to allocate money in future budgets.
But utilities director Grant Moller said the feasibility study would be a useful guide.
“We’ll engage consultants to look at the Veolia Arena, this building (Civic Centre) and others,” he told the meeting.
“When we get the results we can look at where the money should be allocated. It’s actually very exciting that when we get this study back, in about six months, we’ll have some very good information and it will answer our questions on where our direction in solar lies.”
Likewise, a bio-gas facility at the new (wastewater treatment plant) in Wollondilly Avenue is designed to offset power costs. This will also be considered in the feasibility study.
Mr Bennett said the council was also looking at installing a solar farm on spare land surrounding the wastewater treatment plant. The parcel, stretching from Kenmore around the back of Gorman Road, will be freed up after the plant is operational. The new facility will enable the council to discharge higher quality effluent into the river, negating the need to irrigate it on the land. It is just one proposed use for the 1576 hectare holding.
“It (the plant) will be a much larger user of electricity and we are looking at solar to offset that. There is opportunity for a 700 to 800 acre solar farm there,” Mr Bennett said.
The council previously called for expressions of interest in the land but held off on a decision for further investigations into making best the best use of the site. Staff are currently preparing a planning proposal for its rezoning to send to the NSW Department of Planning for a gateway determination.
Meantime, the council’s State of the Environment Report 2013-16 showed that carbon emissions had increased over the period. They rose from 12,353 tonnes in 2012/13 to 12,911 tonnes in 2015/16.