Solar upgrade powering aquatic research centre at Port Stephens Fisheries Institute

RENEWABLE ENERGY: More than 500 solar panels have been installed on the roof of the Port Stephens Fisheries Institute at Taylors Beach.
RENEWABLE ENERGY: More than 500 solar panels have been installed on the roof of the Port Stephens Fisheries Institute at Taylors Beach.

More than 500 solar panels have been installed on the roof of the Port Stephens Fisheries Institute as part of a program to cut energy consumption and reduce costs.

The Taylors Beach-based institute is one of three NSW Government aquatic and agricultural research and development facilities part of a rooftop solar PV installation program, which is managed by energy services business Verdia.

The solar panel installation is expected to save the Port Stephens institute about $40,000 a year in electricity costs and reduce Co2 emission by about 200 tonnes each year

"The cost of electricity generated from solar panels installed behind the meter is cheaper than electricity sourced from the grid," Verdia CEO Paul Peters said.

"I can't see that changing in the foreseeable future. And now governments are looking at solar PV to reduce their energy costs, as well as their carbon footprint."

Port Stephens Fisheries Institute at Taylors Beach before 500 solar panels were installed on the roof.

Port Stephens Fisheries Institute at Taylors Beach before 500 solar panels were installed on the roof.

In addition to the Port Stephens Fisheries Institute, which is the headquarters for marine ecosystems and aquaculture research in NSW, the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute in Menangle and Tamworth Agricultural Institute have had solar panels installed.

About 1500 solar panels were installed at the Menangle site and 255 at the Tamworth site.

According to Verida, the NSW Government currently spends about $940,000 a year on electricity at the three sites, which is expected to fall by 22 percent - or $210,000 a year - with the renewable energy upgrades (solar panels).

All up, the upgrades are expected to save more than $3.1 million over the expected 20-plus year lifespan of the systems.

The upgrades have been funded through Westpac's Energy Efficiency Finance Program.

"By funding this investment through Westpac's Energy Efficiency Program, the NSW Government can release the benefits of reduced energy costs, without any impact on its budget. It takes the risk out of these investments," Mr Peters said.

According to Verida, the solar panel system in Taylors Beach will generate about 243 megawatt hours of electricity each year - equivalent to powering 43 homes.

The energy will be used to help run the institute's hatcheries, aquatic research greenhouse and laboratory, library and outdoor ponds.

The solar upgrade comes on top of a $5.8 million expansion and upgrade to the Taylors Beach institute.

 Research leader Wayne O'Connor in front of the fish nutrition centre at Taylors Beach.

Research leader Wayne O'Connor in front of the fish nutrition centre at Taylors Beach.

The Fisheries' research leader and institute director Wayne O'Connor said that the multi-million upgrade would focus on three key areas.

"The first stage includes the upgrade of the mollusc hatchery, a building which is estimated to be 30 years old, the second involves rebuilding the fish nutrition centre and the third involves major improvements to the fish hatchery," he said.

"A further development expected to be completed before the end of the year consists of demolishing the existing wharf and rebuilding the structure with an aluminium walkway and floating pontoon."

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