5 March 2018

National Arboretum powers up with solar panels and batteries

| Ian Bushnell
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An aerial view of the National Arboretum’s horticulture works depot and its new solar panels. Image: Supplied

New solar panels and battery storage at the National Arboretum’s horticulture works depot has replaced its diesel generator and enabled workers to use electric tools, as well as reducing the ACT’s greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 28.5 tonnes per year.

Climate Change and Sustainability Minister Shane Rattenbury launched the self-contained and off-grid 30-kilowatt solar panel system and battery storage installed by Canberra-based company ITP Renewables at the Arboretum on 2 March (Friday), with workers displaying battery charged electric hedge trimmers and secateurs.

It can also run the hot water system, computers, fridges, air conditioners power tools and welders.

“This renewable energy project will result in significant reductions to greenhouse gas emissions estimated at 28.5 tonnes per year. This is the equivalent of taking 11.8 cars off the road each year,” Mr Rattenbury said.

“The project makes financial sense as well with the installation cost of the new system expected to be repaid using fuel savings within eight years and then ongoing financial savings thereafter. Solar will also provide a more reliable electrical supply to the depot than the previous diesel generator.

“I am pleased that one of the more iconic locations in Canberra, which is committed to a range of environmental projects, has seen the benefits of utilising solar power.”

The project has been made possible through a $283,330 loan from the ACT Government’s Carbon Neutral Government Fund, which will be repaid within eight years.

The Carbon Neutral Government Fund provides loans for agencies to implement energy and fuel saving projects, and Mr Rattenbury said repayments to the fund would be recycled into other projects across other parts of government where it was trying to make the transition to clean energy.

“The Fund has now supported 26 projects with a total of $14.5 million in loans provided across ACT Government which will provide more than $2 million in annual cost savings,” Mr Rattenbury said.

Mr Rattenbury said the strength of a solar installation like this was that it was off-grid, so there was no need for power lines.

“It’s ideal for remote locations but the way that the price of batteries and solar panels is changing the two options are becoming more and more affordable for a range of applications,” he said.

National Arboretum Executive Manager Scott Saddler said the new system made for a safer and quieter work environment for staff.

“I came down yesterday afternoon and it was the best time because the diesel wasn’t running and I couldn’t hear a thing. It also powers up all of our tools and the greatest thing about that is they’re not using fuelled machines they’re using solar powered battery operated tools,” he said.

Mr Saddler said the system had been built for add-ons in the future, so when the depot gets bigger it will have sufficient power.

He said the Arboretum may also put one of the car parks under a bespoke car port with solar panels on its roof.

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