Cleanaway gets really clean with $5m solar investment

Solar panels on roof of Cleanaway building
Image: Cleanaway

Australian integrated waste management company Cleanaway is investing almost $5 million in solar energy systems across Australia to reduce its electricity demand from the grid and its annual power bill.

Chief operating officer Brendan Gill said Cleanaway was installing 2.4MW of photovoltaic panels, which would be capable of generating about 3.6GWh of electricity each year—enough to power 547 Australian homes.

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He said Cleanaway would have solar generation across 23 sites spanning all states when the three-phase program was completed this calendar year.

This includes a 60kW array of panels at the new Perth Material Recovery Facility (MRF), which reopened in May, along with oil refineries, liquids waste facilities, and other MRFs.

“It makes economic sense to reduce our exposure to volatile electricity prices by generating our own power,” Gill said.

He said Cleanaway expected the installation of solar panels to reduce Cleanaway’s annual electricity bill from these facilities by about 17 per cent, or more than $500,000 a year, and annual electricity usage from the grid from these facilities by about 20 per cent.

“In choosing which of our 250-plus sites were to be powered by the sun, we prioritised those that were likely to provide the fastest payback of our investment, but also considered factors such as roof size, angle, pitch and age, and operational hours,” Gill said.

“About 1.6MW of panels are already in place and the remaining 0.8MW will be being installed by the end of this year.

“Solar PV is a proven technology with little risk, and we look forward to realising the benefits of this investment immediately and over many years.”

In 2020 Cleanaway published its first Sustainability Report, naming seven priority Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the company felt it could have the greatest impact on through its operations.

This program contributes to four of the SDGs:

  • 7. Affordable and Clean Energy: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  • 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities: Make cities and human settlements  inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • 12. Responsible Consumption and Production: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • 13. Climate Action: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

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“Given the scale of our operations we’re aware that we can make an impact with improvements like this. The program is another example of how we’re working towards our mission to make a sustainable future possible for generations to come,” Gill said.

The project draws on a $90 million Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) corporate loan designed to accelerate sustainable practices in the waste management sector.