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Here’s how Suntrix’s floating solar systems project benefitted Lismore City Council

With the help of Suntrix, Lismore City Council is progressing with the installation of one of Australia’s largest floating solar systems, said to be the “first-ever” community funded project of its type.

Presenting at the upcoming Ozwater’18 conference on the success of the floating solar pilot, Suntrix Chief Business Manager Geoff Fussell said the project was initially conceived when the council realised it didn’t have the ground space for a system large enough to meet its targets.

“Lismore City Council made a commitment to cover its energy use with renewables. It identified sites with the highest power use, but realised there wasn't enough space to install the capacity of solar needed to offset its energy usage at the sewage treatment site,” Fussell said.

“It identified that it had a large water space and pursued the opportunity to put floating solar onto that particular dam.”

Suntrix won the contract and has since helped the council install a new type of photovoltaic solar system that’s modular, allowing for flexibility in terms of scaling up the system.

“It’s a modular system that is scalable. You have a main float that the panel is mounted to, and then the secondary float, which is set up for accessibility and maintenance. The floats come together as a large island and the solar panels get mounted onto that,” Fussell said.

“It's the first modular scalable solution in Australia. There was a floating solar unit installed in Jamestown in 2015, but that's a totally different technology and that was only 30KW.”

The pilot floating solar system currently has a 100KW capacity, but Lismore City Council already has plans to scale the system up to 400KW due to the success of the program.

“The existing 100KW capacity covers about 12% of energy usage on the site, so scaling it up to 400KW is going to cover close to half the energy usage on the site,” Fussell said.

Furthermore, the modular system makes access and panel maintenance safer on larger-scale solar islands, making it more likely to be adopted, Fussell said.

“It is also the first in the world to use a new development. The product had a shortcoming in terms of the Australian application. We are very OH&S conscious here. The opportunity was there to build a third float to provide a safe perimeter access to the island,” he said.

“This project is now being adopted around the world. If we didn't develop the safe perimeter zone, floating solar would not be adopted in many cases as there was still a risk. We have alleviated that risk by developing the safe perimeter.”

Fussell said aside from being more effective due to temperature control from evaporation, floating solar also protects water bodies from algae growth due to limited sunlight, and reduces the huge amount of evaporation occurring due to exposed surface areas.

“The advantage of putting the panels on water is that the evaporative effect keeps the panels closer to their most efficient temperature, meaning that you are getting the maximum benefit out of the panels capability,” he said.

“You are also restricting sunlight to the water and restricting algae growth, which reduces the need for filtering. Also, it stalls evaporation. In Australia, we lose about two metres of water level a year via evaporation.”

“The bigger coverage of water you’ve got, the higher all of these benefits are.”

Register for Ozwater’18 to hear more from Geoff Fussell, who designed and project managed the construction of this floating solar system project.

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