Magnetic Island North Queensland
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November 10th 2009
Win win with Solar Farm

A preliminary skate park shade structure concept On Monday night the Magnetic Island community had an important win and the Ergon Energy-led Solar Cities project on Magnetic Island showed they were indeed responsive to community wishes when the plan to locate banks of solar panels in a “Solar farm” between the Smart Lifestyle Centre (formerly the MI Sports and Rec. Club) was scrapped in favour of a new direction prompted by the community.

Solar Cities Community Engagement Manager, Julie Heath, addressed the meeting which drew over 20 locals and was the second consultative gathering over the planned Solar Park (click for previous story).

At the first meeting there were significant complaints raised about the park of solar panels being mooted to go between the Smart Lifestyle Centre and Gifford Street. Generally the idea was seen as an intrusion into public space and community objections were matched with calls for the solar panels to be deployed making useful shade – particularly for the skate park.

Putting it bluntly, Julie Heath told the meeting, “We'd be mugs to piss people off,” and then proceeded to outline a preliminary costing for engineering to cyclone standards at the height required. $150,000 which included 20 tonnes of steel, foundation, painting and transport costs but excluded installation and electrical costs was Ergon's early estimate. This figure was clearly more than Ergon had expected in its original plan so the matter of raising further dollars to this end was then considered. A number of suggestions were made. Notably: that extra funding should be available, considering the purpose (to shade a popular skate park), from outside sources including federal programs. These are to be investigated. Another suggestion was that Townsville City Council be approached to see if the large steel poles which are planned for removal from Flinders Street East could be recycled for supports to the skate park shade structure.

Ergon had clearly been busy working with the community's previous input and had even pieced together a very preliminary diagram to show the dimensions of the skate park shade structure which, on its own, would still only account for about 45 of the 100kw that Ergon require.

An important technical consideration is that the solar park be arranged with all the banks of photo voltaic panels as close to each other as possible so that its entire output can be channelled to one outlet and minimise transmission loss. The possibility of making extra structures which would pretty well account for the remaining 55kws required, be cheaper and lower to the ground, shade crowds at sporting events around the periphery of the oval – which comes close to the skate park - was then explored with a strong nod of approval from the meeting. Ergon were happy to take this further while rejecting a suggestion to shade the nearby tennis court due to the “lob” height factor required.

Horseshoe Bay resident Richard Poutney was keen to see a creative design approach noting that people love to get a raised view and suggested a viewing platform with interpretive panels could be deployed.

Ergon's Townsville Project Manager, Ian Cruishank, suggested that it might be better for a smaller group to be formed to take the project further in these directions. This was considered at the meeting but a consensus emerged that another meeting in three weeks for the wider community, showing progress in the above-mentioned directions, would be preferred before a smaller working group was formed.

Ian Cruishank was also keen to build a trial structure to see what locals felt about its appearance

A number of locals attending the meeting congratulated Ergon on their flexibility and preparedness to engage the community and support was also expressed for the work done to rehabilitate the old Sport and Rec Club building before its planned hand back to the community in 2013. Horseshoe Bay resident,Darren McDonald, said “Ergon and Solar Cities should be commended. At the end of the day we appreciate it – well done!” while John “Scotchie” O'Neil said, “Everything was answered.”

The next meeting is planned for Monday 30 November again at the Smart Lifestyle Centre at Horseshoe Bay at 7.30pm.

To add your comment,
or read those of others, see below

Win win with Solar Farm
Barbara Gibbs
November 10th 2009
Sorry to have forgotten the meeting. However, I think every attempt to encourage more solar panels or wind farms should be considered, and not delayed. Aesthetics are becoming less important as our Earth gets more damaged...houses aren't refused building on account of aesthetics, and if they were, many could not exist.
November 15th 2009
I have slept under solar panels at a party at Bolgers Bay. I slept late ( it was a great party)and woke up like I was micowaved on high.
Was wondering if anyone has considered the heat factor under solar panels?
Michael Schmidt
November 15th 2009
If it is so essential to create a commercial solar farm at or near the sports grounds then why not rent the treeless flat property over the road? Michael Schmidt
November 18th 2009
Hock, just because you were wired up to the panels didn't mean you had to switch them on.
Mike, I think the Council is trying to help Ergon by offering a small piece of their 18 acres - after all, Ergon did spend half a million fixing up the building which was disused and deserted after only 25 years service.
December 1st 2009
I love the idea of shade over the skate park, but is there any chance of increased radiation levels near these solar panels? We know that electricity does have associated radiation, and we probably don't want to irradiate our kids and then find out in the future....

Are there other setups of this type that we can look at for some answers?

What do you think? Send us your comments.

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