Australia's sunniest town will soon be home to the country's largest building-mounted solar panel system, following approval of a $3 million photovoltaic (PV) installation at one of central Australia's best hotels, Crowne Plaza Alice Springs.
The project will see 13 solar arrays - comprising over 1,300 individual PV solar modules - mounted on the roof of the hotel. Due for completion in early 2009, the combined solar arrays will generate nearly 1,500 kilowatts per day, or over 530,000 kWh per year, which is enough to power more than 60 family homes. Importantly, it will provide between 40 and 80 percent of the hotel's power requirements depending on the time of year, reducing its carbon footprint by 420 tonnes of CO2.
The ground-breaking project is a joint initiative between the owner of Crowne Plaza Alice Springs, Investnorth Pty Ltd, and the Australian Government. The initiative is part of the Alice Solar City Project - one of the seven cities selected for funding under the Australian Government's $94 million Solar Cities Program. Investnorth principal; Lloyd Berger said the installation is a vital part of improving the Crowne Plaza Alice Spring's energy profile, made more viable by the fact Alice Springs has the highest solar resource of any town in the country.
"With this project, our intent is to minimise the hotel's environmental impact and carbon footprint by making the property more energy efficient and reducing its reliance on fossil fuels, following a comprehensive eco-audit we conducted in late 2007. This audit highlighted the enormous potential offered by the hotel's location to make a substantial difference to its impact on the natural environment.
"By considering the hotel holistically, this project has positive implications that go beyond the direct benefits of reducing fossil fuel consumption, for example by enabling us to redesign and upgrade the building management system to maximize guest comfort.
"We will also be making efforts to engage our guests with the project's benefits. For example, a solar PV channel will link each guest room's television to a real-time explanation of energy savings, as will an animated LCD display in the hotel foyer. Both will draw data from the rooftop solar arrays to demonstrate current power output, total energy generated and equivalent greenhouse gas emissions saved," Mr Berger said.
Other recommendations made during the eco-audit that will be implemented by Crowne Plaza Alice Springs include the installation of solar hot water, decommissioning of steam boilers and replacement of inefficient lights and fittings throughout the hotel.
Lyndon Frearson, Senior Project Manager with CAT Projects, the organisation managing the project, said the benefits of Crowne Plaza Alice Springs' massive solar array installation will extend well beyond the tourism industry.
"At a local level, the project will assist in reducing the total load on the Alice Springs town grid by about 0.5%, or 250kW of the 50,000kW maximum generated in the middle of summer."
According to Alice Solar City general manager, Brian Elmer, the project will be the first of several large-scale solar installations scheduled to be established in the region over the next few years, which will continue to reduce the city's reliance on fossil fuels and sizably reduce its carbon footprint.
The Australian Company providing the solar PV panels for the system, SunPower Corporation Australia Pty Ltd, will also be responsible for its installation over a ten week period, employing a minimum of 12 local contractors. In addition the overall project will inject more than $450,000 into the local economy.
The project will also provide local electrical apprentices and professionals with an opportunity to gain experience on grid-connected PV systems, enhancing their ability to gain further work within the renewable industry in Central Australia.