Western Plains Zoo Taps Solar Energy

Western Plains Zoo Solar

Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s new elephant facility, which features solar PV and solar hydronics, will be finished by the end of this year.

The $4.3 million project has seen a three-stall elephant barn constructed and two new paddocks totaling over 7500sqm prepared.

The elephant barn features a 10kw solar panel system on the roof which provides power to all three barns at the facility.

The heating system is based on solar hydronics and consists of Latento hot water storage tanks and Sunda evacuated tube solar collectors.

In a solar hydronics system, sun shining on the solar collectors heats a special fluid within the tubes. The fluid is then pumped into heat exchange coils in a heavily insulated storage tank.

The heat exchange coils heat the water in the tank, which can then be circulated throughout a building on a continual basis and also be pumped through radiators or  pipes situated under the floor, providing a gentle, radiant warmth.  In the Zoo’s implementation, under-floor heating will heat sand beds for the elephants.

Zoo elephant barn

Significant volumes of hot water can be economically and cleanly generated and stored for days using solar hydronics; even in low light conditions. In the Zoo’s installation, gas burners will act as standby heaters if the weather is cloudy for a prolonged period or in situations where there is heavy demand for hot water.

Other innovations in the project will also assist with energy efficiency.

“The barn has been constructed from a thermal mass concrete providing better insulation and has been designed to take advantage of natural sunlight to assist with heating and drying the barn throughout the year,” said Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s General Manager, Matthew Fuller.

Four elephants are due to arrive from Taronga Zoo in March 2015.

“The animals will be given time to settle in once they arrive and become familiar with their new environment and keepers before going on exhibit,” said Mr. Fuller

Taronga Western Plains Zoo is located in Dubbo, in central west New South Wales.