Making Newcastle a smarter, greener city

By Amy Steed
Monday, 20 January, 2020

Making Newcastle a smarter, greener city

City of Newcastle is going smart, with council rolling out environmentally friendly infrastructure across the region.

Smart street poles and lighting, bin sensors and a five-megawatt solar farm at Summerhill are among the new technologies being deployed.

In addition, an advanced network of sensors spread across the city will help to tackle a range of local environmental issues.

Newcastle’s smart street poles are designed to save energy through the use of light-emitting diodes (LEDs), and they are equipped with controls that allow lights to be dimmed when not needed. The council is changing over its existing street lighting to LED, with the ultimate goal of saving energy, money and carbon emissions.

The city’s ‘Envirosensing’ network and Internet of Things (IoT) project was launched in October 2019, after three years of working towards the construction of one of the most advanced smart city infrastructure systems in Australia.

This infrastructure allows for the deployment of smart bin sensors, smart parking sensors and other smart city applications. For instance, by making use of the network, smart bins in public spaces will contain sensors that can detect when they actually need to be emptied. This will save waste crews having to undertake full rounds only to service a large number of empty bins, as well as reducing the number of overflowing bins and saving on driving time.

The Envirosensing system is also designed to measure a range of environmental conditions including temperature, humidity, wind direction, air quality, water usage, soil moisture and solar irradiance.

Custom-designed adaptable sensor housings developed have been integrated into the city’s growing smart pole network and can be accessed by the council’s research and industry partners to develop new technologies and help solve city challenges.

The council’s goal is to use data collected by the sensors to better understand and respond to issues such as urban heat island effect, air pollution, flood management and water sustainability, as well as monitor the performance of urban systems and assets.

“An example of how these sensors can be used is in combatting the phenomenon of higher temperatures in areas with a lot of buildings and pavement, known as the ‘urban heat island effect’,” said Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes.

“Studies show that urban heat islands are associated with higher pollution and negative health conditions, especially for the elderly and young children. This technology will be integral to exploring possible actions to mitigate urban warming.”

The NSW Government supported the deployment of smart city infrastructure through a $5 million grant via the Restart NSW-funded Hunter Innovation Project. A partnership with the state government will see the City of Newcastle invest an additional $2 million over three years.

Switching on the solar farm

In December 2019, City of Newcastle opened its $8 million five-megawatt solar farm. Covering an area the size of five football fields on a capped landfill that was previously the site of a coalmine, the solar farm’s 14,500 photovoltaic cells are now producing 7.5 million kilowatt-hours of renewable electricity each year.

“The solar farm is generating enough energy to power the equivalent of 1300 households, which is a significant environmental gain as well as reducing council’s electricity costs by millions of dollars,” said Newcastle Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen.

Newcastle moved to 100% renewables in January 2020, following its purchase-power agreement to source electricity from the state’s largest wind farm.

“The solar and wind farm combination will mean enough clean energy will be put into the grid to power every sportsground floodlight, local library, park BBQ and every other facility the city operates," said Clausen.

The solar farm was partly funded with a $6.5 million loan from Australia’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

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