Jerry Schwartz at his solar panel farm next door to Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley.
Jerry Schwartz at his solar panel farm next door to Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley.

One-hundred percent of the electricity requirements of Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley and a number of adjacent venues will soon be powered by solar as the final stages of preparation are made to a new $8.5 million solar farm next door.

The 5,000 megawatt farm, consisting of 13,350 power generating panels, is the initiative of hotel owner and environmentalist Dr Jerry Schwartz, who has long been an advocate for green energy, sustainability and heavily reduced reliance on fossil fuels and traditional energy sources. The farm has been set up on land adjacent to the resort also owned by Dr Schwartz and will be used to power the resort, the Hunter Valley Conference & Events Centre and Sydney Brewery, all located on-site.

Energy will begin to be generated by the solar panels from next month, after work began on the associated systems in February this year. Two inverters are in operation on-site and a dedicated electrical and battery storage room has been constructed. High-voltage cabling, power poles and switching gear is currently being installed to hook up the farm to the Ausgrid system.

Cessnock City Council approved the construction of the solar farm soon after its conception in 2016 following the submission of an environmental effects statement and vegetation management plan. The new farm builds on the existing solar panels on top of the Crowne Plaza. Soon, the entire site will become self-sufficient, but will remain connected to mains power as a backup source if needed.

Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley, with its existing solar panels on the roof of the main building.

Dr Schwartz said it was important to be the catalyst and set examples of renewable energy in an area still known for its long history of coal mining.

“Tourism is the sustainable industry of the future for the Hunter Valley, and to make the hotel, convention centre and brewery 100% renewable is an important initiative.”

The newest solar farm is one part in a co-generation plan also being developed and which sees the use of gas to produce electricity and heat for the resort, including heating the resort’s water supply, the swimming pools, producing potable water and powering the Lovedale Brewery production process.