Australian nuclear organisation turns to solar for savings


Installation company RACV Solar has completed its largest solar panel installation in Victoria to date, rolling out a 1.6 MW rooftop system at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation’s (ANSTO) Australian Synchrotron facility at Clayton, in Melbourne’s southeast.

The rooftop PV system and inverter will supply part of the Australian Synchrotron’s total energy requirements and is expected to deliver savings of about $2 million (USD 1.32 million) by 2029. It is expected the system will reduce ANSTO’s demand on the grid by more than 2 million kWh per year while reducing its carbon footprint by more than 1,680 tonnes per year.

ANSTO Australian Synchrotron Director Professor Michael James said the investment in solar technology was a “no-brainer” for the research facility that uses particle accelerator technology to generate brilliant beams of light used for research purposes.

The powerful beams of light – x-rays and infrared radiation – a million times brighter than the light from the sun, are used to examine the molecular and atomic details of a wide range of materials, including the next generation of solar cell technology.

James said the science facility operates 24 hours per day and the new solar plant provides a cyclical way to harness the power of sun during daylight hours to help power the facilities.

“Electricity is one of our largest operating costs, so our new solar plant will deliver substantial savings and also act as a buffer against increasing energy overheads in the future,” he said.

“Going solar was a no-brainer. The size of our rooftops, paired with the ample, uninterrupted exposure to sunlight at our location within the Monash precinct was a major incentive for us to become more energy efficient.”

James said the benefit of driving down operating costs is paralleled by ANSTO’s ongoing commitment to a greener future.

“This investment in renewable technology is just one way we can meet our own sustainability goals while also contributing to a cleaner and greener environment,” he said.

ANSTO is aiming to reduce its grid electricity dependency by 20% by 2035.

RACV General Manager Energy Greg Edye said the project is the company’s largest rooftop deployment in Victoria yet and the five-month-long install had provided some unique challenges.

The rooftop system includes more than 3,200 panels spread across an area of nearly 6,600 square metres, including across the large circular roof of the main research facility.

“The solar panel installation … covers the rooftops of the main Australian Synchrotron building, the Australian Synchrotron guesthouse, and the environmentally controlled storage facility,” Edye said.

“The engineering and technical expertise required to deliver this type of project is complex.”

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