Canberra arboretum goes green-er, ditching diesel for solar and storage

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ACT’s National Arboretum has replaced its diesel generator for 100% solar and battery storage – a shift that will pay for itself within 8 years.

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One Step Off The Grid

Canberra’s National Arboretum – a 250 hectare tourist centre that hosts 94 forests of rare, endangered and symbolic trees – has gone off grid, or rather, off diesel, after the installation of solar and battery storage.

The 30kW solar system, and a lithium-ion phosphate battery storage system of 82kWh, was unveiled by ACT climate minister Shane Rattenbury on Friday, having been installed by local company ITP Renewables.

The project, which was underwritten with a Territory loan of $283,330, will completely replace the diesel generator that has been powering the Arboretum’s operations, and cut ACT government emissions by 28.5 tonnes per year.

It is also expected to be much cheaper than the diesel gen-set, with the cost of the solar and battery system expected to be repaid completely within eight years, via fuel savings alone.

“The installation of a 30 kilowatt solar panel system, supported by battery storage, replaces the large diesel generator at the Arboretum’s horticulture works depot,” Minister Rattenbury said.

“The system… is self-contained and off-grid. It can run the hot water system, computers, fridges, air conditioners and power tools, even welders.”

Rattenbury said that the arboretum’s team of arborists and gardeners would now also have the benefit of using clean, solar-powered electric chainsaws, hedge trimmers, lawn mowers and so on for their work, instead of fossil fuelled tools.

As we reported here last year, there are fully electric, lithium-ion battery powered and cordless alternatives to most power tools, available to buy in Australia. While a little more expensive up front, they do the same job, but with less pollution, less noise, and much lower ongoing maintenance and refuelling costs.

“(The arborists) are know able to use these electric tools, fully powered by the sun. So it’s clean technology, but it’s also technology that’s making their job easier. They’ve got more than 40,000 trees to look after at the arboretum, so using these (solar rechargeable) power tools obviously makes their job a whole lot easier,” Rattenbury said in comments at the system launch.

“The strength of a project like this is that it is actually off grid, so instead of having to pay to bring the power lines out, it’s cost effective to put this system in here,” he said.

“But the way the price of both batteries and solar panels is changing, these sort of options are becoming more and more affordable for a range of different applications.”

The ACT government’s Carbon Neutral Government Fund, which provided the loan for the Arboretum solar system, had now supported 26 projects, with a total of $14.5 million in loans expected to deliver more than $2 million in annual cost savings, Rattenbury said.

This article was originally published on RenewEconomy’s sister site, One Step Off The Grid, which focuses on customer experience with distributed generation. To sign up to One Step’s free weekly newsletter, please click here

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8 Comments
  1. MaxG 8 months ago

    Ouch, quite expensive… my 12kW/h PV and 20kWh battery did cost 35k$; theirs is four times the size, hence, should cost no more than 150k$…

    • Pedro 8 months ago

      Looks like they had ground mount arrays and a lithium battery bank, which is significantly more expensive than float roof mount and lead acid batteries. Also likely they are on 3 phase which probably means an off grid inverter/phase. Pricing looks about right if that is the case

        • Pedro 8 months ago

          Nice one MaxG. Solar terrace III racking. Selectronic with Kaco. All premium gear. Not familiar with the batteries. Looks like a custom job with BMS on each cell. Did you build the battery bank yourself?

          • MaxG 8 months ago

            Thanks 🙂 Yep, build the low Voltage stuff myself… 16 Sinopoly cells 3.2V 400Ah forming a 48V battery. Each with a cell module (over/undervolt protection and balancer) from evPower (Perth). Also have their BMS.

          • Pedro 8 months ago

            To be fair MaxG I think you are a very shrewd customer who bought well and did a lot of the work yourself bypassing a lot of middle men and the normal installation costs. The site in the article probably needed a battery room and control equipment structure built.

    • Marcus Whitley 8 months ago

      My Napkin Maths would have put there system somewhere around $150k hard to know the specifics of any given site though.

  2. OT 8 months ago

    The site in question required a whole lot more than just a quick ground-mount array and home-made battery box (Nothing against your installation – EVPower batteries are pretty good value – I use them myself too). Just need to compare apples with apples.

    The array is on quite a high solar carport structure to allow the parking of small trucks and tractors (significantly more expensive and structurally more involved than smaller ground structures). The site is exposed so footings are significant too to cater for high wind loads. The equipment is in the middle green shipping container (an equipment room, part of the package cost), complete with 3x Sunny Islands, 6x Sunny Boys, multiple LiFePO4 battery racks, multiple switchboards and an air conditioning system. Add to that a diesel backup generator with canopy, trenching across the whole site with connectivity to the various site sheds.

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