Newcastle Engineers Australia Engineering Excellence Awards celebrates innovation

CHANGING TECHNOLOGY: Earthsafe Australia Pty Ltd's Toby Roberts (front) and Gary Hardy pictured during the installation of a solar septic system for a new home under construction in Clarence Town. Picture: SUPPLIED.

CHANGING TECHNOLOGY: Earthsafe Australia Pty Ltd's Toby Roberts (front) and Gary Hardy pictured during the installation of a solar septic system for a new home under construction in Clarence Town. Picture: SUPPLIED.

Newcastle's engineering professionals continue to contribute to innovation and excellence in the sector and their achievements will be celebrated at the upcoming Newcastle Engineers Australia Engineering Excellence Awards.

Thirteen Newcastle projects were announced as finalists for the 2020 awards, which will recognise Australia's top engineering projects, focusing on social and economic outcomes as well as excellence in engineering.

Engineers Australia Newcastle general manager Helen Link said the awards were very important for the Newcastle Division, which represented engineering professionals, technologists and associates from the Hawkesbury to the Tweed, and from Coonabarabran to the Tasman Sea.

"It gives us an opportunity to highlight the world-class engineering that is still happening within our region," she said.

"Engineering can be a demanding profession in delivering on the client's expectations over tight timeframes and even tighter budgets.

"But every so often there are those projects that push the boundaries of innovation and provide outstanding solutions that not only meet but exceed everyone's expectations.

"This exceptional engineering can take many forms - large or small, traditional or new age, technically complex or astonishingly simple.

"The Excellence Awards are about recognising these projects and the great teams who have worked behind the scenes to deliver them."

Byron Bay Railroad Company's world first solar powered train which received an Engineering Excellence Award in 2018. Picture: SUPPLIED.

Byron Bay Railroad Company's world first solar powered train which received an Engineering Excellence Award in 2018. Picture: SUPPLIED.

From large scale infrastructure to ground-breaking research, Ms Link said the Australian Engineering Excellence Awards provided an opportunity to showcase works to industry, clients, government, media, sponsors and the community.

Ms Link said the region was the home of some of Australia's earliest engineering excellence. The Tamworth Street Lighting Project, Walka Water Works and Great Northern Railway were just a few examples.

"This heritage has established a culture of innovation in engineering that has continued to flourish," she said.

Newcastle company Earthsafe Australia Pty Ltd was named a finalist for its innovative solar septic system, which was designed and manufactured locally.

"It is encouraging for the industry that a small company can be recognised in this way. We are rather delighted with our finalist status," managing director Owen Hill said.

The solar powered septic system offers a solution for sheds, remote holiday homes and isolated farms that are off the electrical grid and central sewer networks.

Mr Hill said a growing number of homes being built on acreage blocks created by rural subdivisions would rely on solar energy rather than connecting to the grid in the future.

"It offers a unique opportunity in the convergence of need and the technology available," Mr Hill said.

The technology allows for the treatment of water to a standard that it can be used to water gardens, vineyards and orchards, resulting in a 20-30 per cent decrease in water usage for the home.

It also prevents the risk of water contamination, which can occur from traditional sewerage systems.

"As a society we are realising it is not something that is nice to do, it is critical - especially as we live closer together," Mr Hill said.

Another of the system's major innovations is its ability to sense the home's wastewater flow.

If the home is unoccupied for 24 hours, the system automatically switches to holiday mode and reduces the power being consumed.

Up to six winners will be announced at the Engineers Australia Engineering Excellence Awards, with one winner selected to represent the region as a finalist for the Sir William Hudson Award - the highest honor for a project awarded by Engineers Australia. At the last awards in 2018, Byron Bay's first solar powered train was selected to represent the region.

The winners, as well as the Newcastle Professional Engineer of the Year, will be announced during a virtual awards ceremony taking place on Monday, September 14.

Newcastle's nominees

  • Awaba Waste Management Facility Expansion (Lake Macquarie City, GHD, Daracon)
  • Earthsafe Solar Septic - An innovative wastewater treatment system designed and manufactured in Newcastle NSW (Earthsafe Australia Pty Ltd)
  • Hydro Harvester - Atmospheric water generation for drinking water and green hydrogen production (The University of Newcastle)
  • Mortlake Generator Replacement (Origin Energy, Siemens Energy)
  • Networks Renewed - Collombatti virtual power plant voltage support services trial (Essential Energy, Institute for Sustainable Futures University of Technology Sydney, Reposit Power, Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), AusNet Services)
  • New England Highway bypass of Scone (GHD, Transport for NSW, Daracon Group)
  • Newcastle Light Rail (WSP, Aurecon)
  • Optimal scheduling of urban bulk water systems under uncertainty (University of Newcastle, WaterNSW)
  • Power Station Flexibility - automation project (Origin Energy)
  • Project Gilghi (Aurecon, Ampcontrol)
  • The Newcastle Light Rail Project (Downer)
  • Toomelah/Boggabilla bi-directional pipeline (GHD, Moree PSC)
  • Transitioning from 2D drawings to 3D auto-generated digital models for certified design (Essential Energy, Powerlines Pro)
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