Inner West Council Wants To Boost Region’s Solar 1,000%

Solar energy - Sydney's Inner West

Image: Inner West Council

Sydney’s Inner West Council is aiming to increase solar installations on residential, commercial, industrial and community buildings within its boundaries in a very big way.

The Inner West Council area covers the inner western region of Sydney. There were 182,043 people in the region in Census 2016, which includes suburbs such as Leichhardt, Marrickville and Balmain.

Council says the population is committed to environmental responsibility, but uptake of solar power on private properties is very low.

Information from the Australian Photovoltaic Institute (APVI) indicates that as at the end of September last year, approximately 9.5% of residential dwellings in the local government area (LGA) had solar panels installed. Council puts the figure much lower at just 4%. For New South Wales as a whole, it’s 20% (APVI).

Among the reasons given for low uptake are the LGA’s high proportion of renters (43.6% – Census 2016), strata units (39.7%) and low daytime household electricity consumption.

As a step towards addressing the issue, Inner West Council is inviting organisations to design a system to turn things around.

“We want to establish Council as a broker to facilitate the large-scale installation of solar on buildings and homes across the Inner West,” said Mayor Darcy Byrne. “There are thousands of rooftops, large and small, that should be generating renewable energy and making a return for property owners.”

Acting as a broker, it intends to source capital from superannuation funds, banks and other investors under what’s been called the “Go Solar Program”.

“In doing so we can create a profit for property owners and investors while massively reducing carbon emissions,” states Mayor Byrne.

Setting A Big Goal

Mayor Byrne says Council is aiming for a 1,000% increase in solar energy generation across the Inner West over the next decade. As at the end of September, 19.963 megawatts of solar capacity was installed in the LGA (APVI), with 12.88 megawatts of that total being installations under 10kW.

Assuming Council can reach its target, that be would around 219.5MW installed by 2030/31 based on the September figure. Mayor Byrne says this can be achieved by “covering every factory, apartment block and shopping centre in solar panels”, along with a strong focus on other residential installations.

Expressions of interest for designing a system to achieve the goal have been invited from commercial and not for profit entities. The EOI period closes on March 18, 2020.

As for solar power and emissions reduction related to its own operations, Inner West Council has a target for achieving carbon neutrality by 2023 and attaining 100% renewables (electricity use) by 2025.

Council has PV installed on some of its buildings and in July last year, a contract to purchase power from the Moree Solar Farm came into effect, which will cover approximately 25% of all Council’s electricity usage.

Last June, Inner West became the first council in the state to be totally divested from fossil fuels.

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