Made in the shade: super efficient solar panels tapped for 99kW Melbourne job

A 99kW solar PV system installed at the Brunswick Town Hall in Melbourne’s inner north has become the first in Australia to use Trina Solar’s ultra-efficient mono-crystalline solar panel technology, in an effort to overcome issues of rooftop shading and accessibility on the 140-year old, three storey building.

Lead electrician Nick Garric on the Brunswick Town Hall roof

Part of the City of Moreland, the town hall mainly “earns its keep” these days as a social venue – a factor that had contributed to it becoming one the top 10 energy users in the municipality.
And while adding solar was a no-brainer for the Moreland City Council  – a renewables leader among local governments in Victoria, if not Australia – it proved no easy task for installers Envirogroup, who were faced with a 30 degree slope on the building’s corrugated iron roof.
On top of that, the installers had to factor in issues of shading for part of the day, as well as the town hall’s location on one of Melbourne’s busiest arterial roads.
The solution the team came to was to use the new high efficiency (21.1 per cent) PERC Mono Trina Solar 290Wp panels – a more efficient, albeit more expensive, solar panel to minimise the size of the system and maximise generation capacity.
The final installation used 345 panels on the main roof which will generate 111kWh a year and offset the council’s greenhouse gases by 13,981 tonnes. To get the same energy output with conventional 260Wp would have required more than 400 panels, Trina Solar said.
According to lead electrician on the install, Nick Garric, it was the most difficult job he’s tackled in the seven years he has been an installer.
“Our installing team members were in safety harness for the four week installation period and because of the number of panels, we had to lay them in a landscape pattern, rather than the usual portrait configuration.
“This meant our roof access had to be up the 30 degree slope, rather than along the roof.
“Because of the age of the building and the roof, another difficulty we had to overcome was in running the cables from the panels to the inverter.
“Clearly the 290Wp panels were the solution for us to get enough panels on the roof to generate the required level of energy and we had no handling difficulties compared to the standard 260Wp panels.
“Being on a 30 degree slope the panels are largely self-cleaning, whereas if we had to use the lower flat roof areas there would have been significant soiling as the traffic in busy Sydney Road generates a high level of road grime,” Garric said.
Trina Solar Sales Manager Govind Kant said that the Brunswick Town Hall installation is the first use of the 290Wp solar panels in Australia.
“Although the standard poly modules still have a niche market, the rapid improvement in efficiency with mono modules coupled with the minimal price gap between the poly and the mono modules, will soon see mono modules becoming main stream. The extra price on the mono modules is offset by the greater savings on the balance of the system,” Kant said.
In the past, China-based Trina has worked in partnership with the Australian National University on developing high-efficiency solar cells at the ANU’s Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems.
As we reported back in 2014, the duo produced – at laboratory-scale – an Interdigitated Back Contact (“IBC”) solar cell that was independently tested to deliver an efficiency of 24.4 per cent, putting it in the league of the most efficient solar cells of the time.

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