One of the biggest tourist attractions in Australia, particularly for those venturing to Melbourne, is to do a day-trip out of the city to see the fairy penguins at Phillip Island.

Phillip Island Nature Parks, which manages the fairy penguin’s habitat on the island, has built a new visitor centre perched on a hill with sweeping views of the beach and coastline.

This new centre, which has already won international architectural awards, is powered by solar energy, in keeping with Phillip Island’s goal of being carbon neutral by 2030.

Gippsland Solar, which was responsible for the centre’s solar system, used 666 Trina Solar TSM DD05A.08 (II) Honey M Plus 315 mono perc modules for the 200kw rooftop installation.

The solar provider faced several challenges with this project. Gippsland Solar founder and managing director, Andy McCarthy, says because the centre is built on a hilltop overlooking the sea, there is strong winds and a lot of salt spray.

He says they chose the Honey M Plus 315 module because it is certified to withstand challenging environmental conditions, such as high weight forces caused by high winds.

Gippsland Solar was also very familiar with the Trina Solar product and knew it worked well with the inverters and mounting system they had selected, says McCarthy.

The reason it wanted mono perc is because these are higher efficiency modules, he adds. Rather than use all the rooftop area, Phillip Island Nature Parks only wanted to use part of the rooftop and leave some roof-space free, says McCarthy. Gippsland Solar, therefore, needed the higher efficiency, that comes with mono perc, to make the most of the limited roof space available.

McCarthy says since the solar system was installed, it has been performing well and as expected. "Gippsland Solar also has a five-year operations and maintenance contract to help see that the system keeps performing to expectation in this challenging environment," he adds.

He says even on a cloudy winter day the installation is still generating 370kW hours of production. In the summer months, energy produced will be even higher. 

McCarthy says the building’s architects are also happy because the rooftop installation is in keeping with the building’s aesthetics.

The zinc-clad star-shaped building is also an award winner – it was a 2019 award winner in the International Architecture Awards, an annual event organised by the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design and the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.

(Photo: Phillip Island Nature Park’s Penguin Parade Visitors Centre)

Trina Solar country manager, Govind Kant, says this project is significant, because the centre has over one million visitors each year.

He says the Trina Solar modules are very reliable because they can withstand wind loads of 2,400pa and 35mm hailstones flying at 97km/h. 

The panels are also designed to perform in various temperatures. The modules have excellent low light performance on cloudy days, but are also designed to perform well when there are high temperatures, says Kant.

This coastal area can get very cold in winter. But despite this, each night thousands of people go to see the penguins come ashore at twilight and walk up the beach.

(Photo: Phillip Island Nature Park’s Penguin Parade Visitors Centre)

Phillip Island Nature Parks has a dual role – it must manage the thousands of visitors that come each day to see the penguins whilst also protecting the penguin’s habitat. So, sustainability is key. Phillip Island Nature Parks must also be self-reliant. It is a state government owned organization, but Phillip Island Nature Parks is expected to be self-funding. Therefore, solar energy solutions from Trina Solar is a perfect fit, as it is a solution that is sustainable and allows one to be more self-reliant by reducing one’s electricity bills and dependence on the grid.

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