While AGL operates some of the biggest solar farms in Australia, there’s no doubt the smaller projects can have a big impact too – like the solar and battery system on the Devil Ark conservation facility in remote NSW.
Devil Ark is a Tasmanian devil conservation program run by Aussie Ark, one of Australia’s largest animal conservation and preservation projects more than 200 km north of Sydney.
Len McLachlan, General Manager AGL Macquarie, explained that the idea – to make Devil Ark’s central facility self-sustaining from an electricity standpoint – came about while our people from Bayswater and Liddell power stations were spending a day helping at the Tomalla site in remote NSW.
AGL supports employee wellbeing and community value through paid time off for volunteering – and, in this case, it had extra ongoing benefit.
‘The team members noticed that a petrol generator was the only source of power to run everything, from the site’s lights to its kitchen facilities like microwave, fridge and kettle – this is because the site’s remote location means the sanctuary is completely off-grid,’ Len said.
‘We’re always looking for organisations in our region to help, and Aussie Ark was clearly an ideal recipient for a new solar installation.
‘The team worked with our Business Energy Solutions team to come up with ideas for an alternative source of power. The solution was to install a 5.5 kW solar system with battery storage – fully funded by AGL Macquarie.’
The Business Energy Solutions team engineered, designed, and managed the installation of the solution, while Sunshine Coast-based solar company SunStore installed the 20 solar panels, battery, and inverters.
The location of the facility was a challenge for the installation. Devil Ark is sited 1350 m above sea level in Barrington Tops, inland roughly between Sydney and Coffs Harbor; despite the transplant from their native Tasmania, the devils are comfortable – the conservation zone is sited 1350 m above sea level, with the cool, wet, snowy conditions replicating Tasmania’s climate.
Due to the isolated location there was no phone reception on site, which meant our engineers travelled to the facility to oversee the SunStore team throughout the installation process. Team members travelled considerable distances to the site – 11 hours from the Sunshine Coast for SunStore and 5.5 hours from Sydney for our engineering team.
The conservation project – the largest project for Tasmanian devils in mainland Australia – is considered vital to the devils’ survival. The Tasmanian government estimated in 2008 that there were only around 10,000 devils left in the wild. Since then, the devil has been facing extinction because of Devil Facial Tumour Disease. Devil Ark provides sanctuaries aimed at creating a population of genetically diverse, healthy devils.
Brendan Weinert, Head of Business Energy Solutions Delivery Operations, said the 5.5 kW solar and battery system was now in operation at the site.
‘With the system, the site will use solar energy during the day and excess energy will be stored to use during the night,’ Brendan said.
‘This solution will mean the site goes renewable – and also saves on petrol costs.
‘I’m really proud of the way our people from across very different teams have delivered their best and gone the extra mile for important organisations in our communities.
‘We’ve played a small but significant part in Aussie Ark’s efforts to create a long-term future for the Tasmanian devil.’