Client Success Story

Cutting edge aquatic and agriculture research facilities in NSW set to become solar generators

The Client

The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment brings together specialists in urban and regional planning, natural resources, industry, environment, heritage, Aboriginal and social housing, and regional New South Wales.

Executive summary

Three NSW government facilities at the forefront of aquatic and agricultural research and development are reducing their dependence on the grid and turning to solar to cut energy consumption and reduce costs.

The program of rooftop solar PV installations is being managed by energy services business Verdia and includes the installation of 2,250 solar panels on three iconic sites in regional NSW and greater Sydney.

The NSW Department of Planning, Industry & Environment sites include:

    • The Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute in Menangle – the site of the original land granted to agricultural pioneers John and Elizabeth Macarthur in 1805
    • The Tamworth Agricultural Institute – providing research and development activities across crop breeding, pathology and grain quality programs; and
    • The Port Stephens Fisheries Institute at Taylors Beach – headquarters for marine ecosystems and aquaculture research in NSW.

Project Details

850kW solar PV system across three sites

The three systems total 850 kilowatts and will generate an estimated 1,240 MWh of clean and emission free electricity a year, helping to cut energy use by an estimated 19 percent across the sites.

The NSW Government now spends about $940,000 a year on electricity at the sites. That will now fall by 22 percent or $210k a year after the renewable energy upgrades.

The program is being funded via Westpac’s Energy Efficiency Finance Program.

This means it has no impact on the NSW Government Budget, with the project paying for itself in reduced electricity bills over an estimated 10 years. All up it’s expected to save more than $3.1 million over the expected 20+-year life of the systems.

Verdia CEO Paul Peters said on site solar generation was continuing to be an effective way for businesses and government to reduce their energy costs.

“The cost of electricity generated from solar panels installed behind the meter is cheaper than electricity sourced from the grid,” Mr 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. 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.”

Installation across the three sites has been completed. The program will then be assessed, looking at technical and financial performance to determine if further sites could be included in future upgrades.

NSW Department of Planning, Industry & Environment Solar Program

850 kW solar (approx. 2,260 panels) = enough to cover 18 (Doubles) tennis courts.

Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute

About 1,500 solar panels have been installed to help power world class laboratories and plant and animal high containment facilities. The panels will produce an estimated 851 megawatts hours of renewable electricity each year to help power the critical first line of defence in early detection of any emerging or exotic farm animal diseases.

The renewable energy technology will continue work to modernise the important historical site, which forms part of the original land granted to agricultural pioneers John and Elizabeth Macarthur in 1805.

Tamworth Agricultural Institute

The Tamworth Agriculture Institute is a centre of excellence for northern farming systems, helping agricultural industries and rural communities remain economically viable and sustainable.

The site is almost 400 metres above sea level, providing an excellent platform to harvest the energy of the sun to help power cutting edge laboratories and quarantine glass houses.

About 255 solar panels will be positioned on its roof to provide 146 megawatt hours of electricity each year – or the same as powering 25 typical homes.

The clean emission free electricity will be used to help power crop breeding programs for thousands of wheat, barley and oat lines. Some of the strains are thousands of years old but are coming back into fashion as primitive wheats used by artisan bakers.

Port Stephens Fisheries Institute

Just over 500 solar panels have been fixed to the roof of the Port Stephens Fisheries Institute, providing a sustainable energy resource to help power research into aquaculture and marine ecosystems in NSW.

The system will generate about 243 megawatt hours of electricity each year- the same as powering 43 homes. The energy will be used to help run the Institute’s hatcheries, aquatic research greenhouse and laboratory, library and outdoor ponds.

It’s fitting that clean renewable energy will help power facilities that are being used to investigate and develop new “fish-friendly” hydropower generation research projects.


solar panels, enough to cover 18 Doubles Tennis Courts

$3.1 m

$3.1 million in energy savings over its working life


of clean, emission free electricity per year, helping to cut energy use by approx. 19% across all sites

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