Solar power comes to adventure playground

Enphase Energy

By Sustainability Matters Staff
Monday, 04 September, 2017


Cubbies completed 2

Technology company Enphase Energy has announced the integration of solar power generation into what is said to be Australia’s oldest adventure playground.

The Fitzroy Adventure Playground (Cubbies) has served as a communal backyard for children living in social housing in the inner-city Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy since 1974. Many of the children who use the playground come from newly arrived communities and live in the Atherton Gardens Housing Estate.

The playground is operated by Save the Children Australia, with part funding from the Yarra City Council and contributions from local businesses and community organisations. It provides a safe space for children who do not have access to a large backyard to play freely and creatively, pursue personal development and growth, and test their own resilience, as well as take part in dance classes, art projects and cooking classes.

Cubbies’ Coal Flower Project, commissioned by the playground and designed by renowned sculptor Benjamin Gilbert from the Agency of Sculpture, sees the addition of five sculptural flowers that are nine metres in height. The Coal Flowers are five poles on top of which are pods made of steel and recycled rubber, sourced from coalmine conveyor belts.

A total of 25 Suntech photovoltaic panels have been installed on the top of the Coal Flowers — one for each petal — with Enphase’s S230 microinverters attached to each solar panel. Besides providing expansive shade to the playground, the coal flowers will generate solar power to provide up to 6.8 kW of power. This will exceed the energy requirements of the playground’s activity centre, with surplus electricity exported back to the grid, which will help reduce the operating costs of Cubbies.

The solar panels were designed with the help of Clean Technology Partners, who introduced to the project Enphase Energy. Enphase’s microinverters let each panel perform independently, so unlike traditional inverters, it will not cause the whole system to go down if one panel isn’t operating. This makes microinverters a more reliable option for solar generation.

“The Enphase microinverter technology meets stringent safety certification requirements, which is crucial as children will be using the playscape,” said David Weston, co-chair of the Fitzroy Adventure Playground. “Enphase microinverters offer greater reliability and the quality of their technology will ensure that our investment in this playscape has the longevity it deserves. This structure will serve the community for many years to come.”

“Enphase is delighted to be part of the Coal Flower Project at Cubbies,” said Nathan Dunn, managing director of Enphase Asia-Pacific. “This playscape is truly unique, as this will be the first time our microinverters have been directly installed to generate energy for an Australian playground. Cubbies’ vision for this installation delivers a powerful statement about the future of solar energy and the impact our choices have on the next generation.”

The Coal Flowers installation, as well as other upgrades to the playground, was made possible thanks to a $210,000 grant from the Victorian government, actively supported by Minister for Planning Richard Wynn. This grant was in addition to a $50,000 philanthropic donation from various foundations.

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