20 February 2023
Sydney’s first floating solar array is the latest sustainability project for the Concord Golf Club. The array is made up of 216 solar panels floating on 200 pontoons which will power the Club’s new water harvesting project.
The Club’s water harvesting project was designed to recycle street water drainage for irrigation of the course, treat the water through UV filters before using it for irrigation and reduce the pollution entering the Parramatta River as runoff. The project will also decrease the club’s energy demands and use renewable energy to power the pumps. As a result, this will reduce overheads which could be passed onto members in the form of reduced green fees.
This project was a finalist in the recent Solar Instillation and Design Awards run by the Clean Energy Council, Australia’s peak body for the clean energy industry.
Sustainability has been a key focus of Concord Golf Club for 30 years since the need to water the course without using the city’s water was recognised. The original stormwater harvesting project that was installed has now become inefficient in comparison to the technology that is available today. As a result, the golf club decided to invest in a new sustainability scheme.
Australia Wide Solar (AWS) was approached to design a solar PV system to meet the energy demands of the pumps that will be used for the water recycling. After a careful consideration of the situation and to minimise environmental impact on the rest of the golf course, the AWS team proposed that they install Sydney’s first floating solar PV system.
The key requirement for this system was that it did not impact the playing experience for members. This floating array fits this perfectly as it does not “waste any valuable land,” said Jiaqi Zhang, the designer for the project. The solar panels which are floating on the course’s major water-storage dam are made more efficient by their placement in water. The cooling effect of the water “brings down the temperature of the panels” and so less energy is lost as thermal energy. As a result, “the efficiency of the panels increase and they produce a higher electricity yield.”
Additionally, by blocking and absorbing the sun’s rays, the panels reduce evaporation from the storage lake which lowers the amount of water needed to be brought in for irrigation. The system is designed to withstand a 10m difference in water level the dam level falls during droughts through calculations which influenced the “length of steel cable anchoring the pontoons to the bottom of the lake.”
The installers for this project, AWS, encountered several challenges during the project delivery phase which included site preparation, system assembly, deployment of the array in the water, system anchoring and cable management. These challenges were addressed “through consultation with contractors and extensive engineering design work,” said Zhang.
The originally planned placement of the panels alongside the dam raised, “playability and aesthetic amongst members but these were quelled once the floating plan was unveiled and members now think it is a work of art,” said Chris Howe, Golf Course Superintendent.
Floating PV has a huge potential in Australia. Many bodies of water represent a geographic advantage being close to the demand of electricity. So far Australia has fallen behind in the uptake of floating PV. However, the floating PV market is expected to take off soon and “six golf clubs have come to take at look at Concorde’s new system,” remarked Howe so watch this space.
Since October 2022, Concord Golf Club have generated $11,961 worth of revenue which has been used to offset their costs. In real terms, this works out to be a net saving of around $2000 a month.
The installation has also saved 3830 trees, 70,149kg of CO2 and 28,425kg of coal.