The installation of more than 220 solar panels on top of one of Parramatta’s most recognisable buildings is expected to significantly reduce its carbon footprint and save more than $130,000 on electricity costs over the coming decade. 

Our team in Project and Workspace Solutions led the project at the Commonwealth Law Courts building. The project plays an important part in the department’s mission to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2030. 

The Australian public service is embarking on a range of energy efficiency initiatives as it works to achieve the targets of Australian Public Service Net Zero 2030 – an Australian Government policy led by the Department of Finance. 

“The new solar panels will generate 112,482 kWh of power and save around 90 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year,” says Ventia’s Project and Workplace Solutions Sustainability Director Emma Wright. 

“This building was one of the Department of Finances’ most energy intensive sites and it was a project we had the pleasure of managing end-to-end, from the initial site audit through to design, scheduling, logistics, and installation.” 


Turning a vision into reality 

The recently completed solar upgrade is the culmination of a journey initiated by the department in 2021.  

The project began with an energy audit of the building's electrical use, followed by implementation of the energy saving initiatives the audit identified.   

Emma says these ranged from “easy wins” such as installing energy efficient LED lighting, through to more complex changes like optimising the Building Management System so the facility’s electrical systems adjust for different times of day and varying occupancy levels. 

The rooftop solar upgrade was approved in late 2022 and the installation of 227 photovoltaic solar panels was undertaken in June this year, to ensure that it coincided with a planned roof replacement and minimised disruption to staff. 

Emma says sustainability was front of mind throughout the project and more than seven tonnes of roof sheets, insulation and safety mesh removed during the upgrade were recycled. As a result of the solar upgrade, the Department of Finance is expected to save more than $13,000 per year in electricity costs. 

“We’ve done similar audits and solar upgrades in other settings – from government facilities on Thursday Island to critical infrastructure supporting the operation of the Sydney Harbour Tunnel – but this one was special as it was an end-to-end project on a high-profile urban office building,” Emma says. 

As a result of success of the Parramatta project, we are now undertaking a similar modernisation project at the Commonwealth Law Courts in Canberra, involving an energy audit and installation of solar panels on that building’s roof. The Department of Finance is also considering solar across the rest of its portfolio.  


A simple, yet effective, approach 

Emma says the approach followed by the Department of Finance can easily be replicated by other Government agencies, as well as climate-conscious corporates. 

“For organisations with large property portfolios a good first step is a detailed feasibility study into key assets. 

“That’s the approach the Department of Finance took, and it enabled us to identify the sites with the greatest potential for energy savings, making prioritisation and work scheduling easier.”  

Ventia’s energy audits and solar feasibility assessments for the Department of Finance have involved site visits, recommendations on energy-saving opportunities, safe work audits and the use of specialised software to determine and solar -energy generation potential. They have also included reports identifying implementation costs for all recommendations, as well as possible cost savings based on current and projected future energy rates. 

“This provides a helpful indicator for a project’s return on investment. In the case of solar panels, we typically say if the ROI is three or four years then it’s a no brainer, but even if the return will be five years or more it can still make good sense in some cases.” 

The energy upgrade project at the Commonwealth Law Courts in Parramatta was undertaken as part of our Whole of Australian Government property services contract. The contract involves delivering leasing and facilities management services to 39 Government entities across more than 650 properties. 


The verdict: Saving power, and the planet, at Commonwealth Law Courts in Parramatta 

  • 57 energy saving initiatives implemented. 
  • 227 solar panels installed, each rated to produce 415 watts per hour. 
  • Energy savings estimated at 112,482 kWh per year. 
  • Expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 89 tonnes CO2-equivalent a year. 
  • Reduction in electricity costs of more than $13,000 per year. 
  • Materials removed during the roof replacement and solar upgrade were recycled.