Substantial solar savings achieved

by FM Media
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An award-winning solar project at Perth Zoo has enabled the zoo to achieve electricity cost savings of up to $20,000 per year.

A SunPower solar electricity system connected to Australia’s Western Power grid is helping Perth Zoo achieve electricity cost savings of up to $20,000 per year. The 90.6-kilowatt SunPower system was installed by electrical solutions provider O’Donnell Griffin.
The installation has been recognised with awards from both the Clean Energy Council and the National Electrical and Communications Association.

The complex project was designed specifically around the animal management priorities of the zoo, while also taking into account the nature of the site, including botanic gardens and a number of historically important trees and buildings. Perth Zoo is located just minutes from the city centre, and its diverse collection includes about 1100 animals from almost 200 different species.
O’Donnell Griffin project manager for the installation, Chris Hannaford, says the historic site presented some unique challenges.
“For instance, the Reptile Exhibit has a curved, domed roof, which meant installing 64 solar panels on this arched roof took a lot of planning and flexibility along the way. We came up with a basic design before we got started, but, once we were on the roof, we adapted the design as required.”
In addition, not all parts of the zoo’s infrastructure were suitable for solar. “Perth Zoo was established in 1898 and, as you would expect, has some fantastic old trees and some very old buildings,” Hannaford notes. “In developing the project design, SunPower identified some areas unsuitable for solar installation, due to shading or the weight of a solar system. Coming up with the right solution is essential at such an important site.”
Safety was also a crucial consideration. “O’Donnell Griffin has its own set of very strict safety standards and there were also a number of requirements set by the zoo,” says Hannaford. “We were working in public areas, so the use of guard railing was mandatory across the installation. There was also a requirement by the zoo that all of our cabling be installed within conduits.”

The installation of the zoo’s solar power system was the first phase of the five-site iconic Perth Solar City, which is part of the Australian Government’s $94 million Solar Cities program. The program is designed to support sustainable models for electricity supply and use.
High-efficiency SunPower E18 solar panels were installed on seven zoo buildings. The size and complexity of this system required individual PV (photovoltaic) solar arrays to be installed on each building, which included the Reptile Exhibit, the Elephant Barn and several other enclosures and office buildings.
“SunPower’s high efficiency panels will reliably maximise the clean, renewable solar power generated on-site for the next 25 years or more, significantly reducing the zoo’s operational costs, and freeing up funds for important conservation and educational programs,” says Hannaford.
The zoo project was O’Donnell Griffin’s third Solar City contract awarded by SunPower. Previously, O’Donnell Griffin installed a roof mounted 60.3-kilowatt grid connected system of SunPower solar panels on the Midland Railway Workshops’ Foundry and Pattern Shop buildings and a roof mounted 48.6-kilowatt grid connected solar system at the Central Institute of Technology’s East Perth Campus. At the time of installation, the Midland Railways system was the largest in Western Australia.

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