Clean energy, happy feet: New solar power for penguins on Phillip Island

Solar-powered centre greets penguin visitors at Phillip Island.Fairy penguins enchant Phillip Island visitors.

A new solar powered tourism attraction on Victoria’s Phillip Island is gearing up to greet thousands of visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of the island’s famous fairy penguins.

The nightly “penguin parade” is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Australia. The $58.2 million Penguin Parade Visitor Centre will help Phillip Island Nature Parks manage the roughly 3,800 people who visit each evening to watch the little penguins come ashore to roost.

The centre’s 200 kW solar installation will also help the island reach its goal of being carbon neutral by 2030.

Solar-powered centre greets penguin visitors at Phillip Island.

Fairy penguins come ashore every evening for Phillip Island’s much-loved Penguin Parade. Image: Flickr

In addition, during the centre’s official opening last week, Victorian Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio announced a ban on all single-use plastics across the facility’s food outlets.

Solar powered tourism centre aims for sustainability

Clean energy helps and less plastic protect the penguins’ habitat from harm. After all, fairy penguins are the smallest of the species. They stand just 33cm tall and weigh around one kilogram.

Park management chose a solar power system using 666 solar modules to reduce emissions as well as electricity bills. In fact, the solar installation has generated 370 kWh of clean energy even on a cloudy, winter day.

The rest of Phillip Island is also doing its bit to boost clean energy and care for the environment.

Newhaven College in Rhyll already has a 243 kW solar array.  A 100 kW system is  also installed at the Nobbies Visitor Centre.

Unique solar installation for award-winning centre

High-efficiency mono PERC solar modules make up the solar powered tourism centre’s  power system. This was important to optimise use of limited roof space.

The solar array sits on top of a unique, zinc-clad, star-shaped building. The design was recognised in the 2019 International Architecture Awards.

Location also placed several demands on installers. Built on a hilltop overlooking the sea, the centre must cope with very challenging environmental conditions including strong winds and salt spray.

Other Victorian solar powered tourism outlets

It seems all of Victoria’s tourist attractions are cutting costs by using solar power.

The Gold Museum at Ballarat already has 200 solar panels. Its Sovereign Hill array generates enough electricity to power the museum as well as feed surplus to the grid.

Meanwhile down south, a 92 kW solar panel system powers Wonthaggi’s State Coal Mine in Gippsland, backed by 41 kWh of battery storage. Visitors can go down into the now abandoned mine shafts to the coalface where miners once laboured.

Back in Melbourne, developers are also building a ‘solar hotel’. The Southbank Holiday Inn Express is due for completion at the end of the year, complete with solar panels and a range of clean energy and energy-saving technologies.