Australia Zoo, the Queensland native wildlife park founded by the late “crocodile hunter,” Steve Irwin, is going solar with a 648kW PV array – the largest of any zoo in Australia.
Local commercial solar specialist GEM Energy said on Thursday that it had been selected to install the huge PV system on the zoo’s landmark “Crocoseum” rooftop, with work starting this week.
The PV system is expected to cut the “significant” amount of power the zoo draws from the local grid in Beerwah, in the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast, and in doing so, slash its electricity costs and emissions.
In a statement on Thursday, GEM Energy said the solar system had been designed to meet the park’s “complex energy needs,” including heating pumps and pools, kitchens and retail shops, spread over hundreds of acres.
“Australia Zoo was paying a significant amount for their power and it’s a real honour to be able to help them operate more efficiently and reach conservation goals through renewable energy,” said GEM Energy national sales manager Aaron Hilton.
“Our in-house engineers … have been able to satisfy stringent network requirements in an area of limited infrastructure and bring this project to fruition.”
The array is expected to generate 21GWh, or 21 billion-watt hours over 25 years and cut the zoo’s emissions by 16,500 tonnes, GEM Energy said.
Australia Zoo director Wes Mannion said the investment would allow the park to put even more resources into conservation.
“Our ultimate goal here … is to have a world class facility and reinvest our proceeds into saving wildlife and wild places around the world,” he said.
“By installing solar, it helps us two-fold – we’re contributing to the reduction of emissions in our own environment, and we’re also saving a substantial amount on electricity long term.”
Australia Zoo is not the first of it kind to tap renewable energy – although, according to the Climate Council, it’s solar array will be the largest of any zoo in the nation.
Elsewhere, the Perth Zoo has a 237kW PV system installed across a number of buildings, that generates up to 30 per cent of its electricity needs.
Back in Queensland, Townsville’s Reef HQ aquarium has installed a 206kW system; while in South Australia, Zoos SA have installed solar at its Montarto Zoo (99kW), and 140kW at the Adelaide Zoo.
Zoos Victoria have installed a total of 188kW across their sites in Melbourne, Healesville and Weribee, and has also claimed the title of the first zoos in the world to be certified carbon neutral.
And in NSW, Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo has installed a total of 109kW – 99kW of which is ground mounted.