Panels on Maiden Gully Fire Station
Just over 12 months ago, Maiden Gully Brigade commissioned a 6.6kW solar system along with a 13.5kWh battery. Two thirds of the cost was provided through the Australian Government’s Energy Efficient Communities Program.
So, has this installation met expectations and is it a viable option for other CFA stations?
As a source of emergency power during a power outage, it has worked above expectations. Over the year, there have been at least 15 outages usually because of storms and two due to maintenance work by Powercor.
So far, there has only been one callout and the battery enabled the rear doors to be easily opened with no delay in response. With UPS units on the two computers, display of information is not affected with the bonus that a brigade member does not need to attend the station to reboot systems.
Outages during daylight are not an issue as the panels recharge the battery faster than power is used. The size of the system does not provide 3 phase power for the front engine bay doors, nor will it provide power for a long-term outage.
The station has certainly become a net exporter of power by feeding into the grid some 5,000 kWh of power and only drawing on 2,000 kWh at night. Greenhouse gas emissions have fallen from 6.1 tonnes down to 2.3 tonnes.
In terms of reducing the energy costs, the CFA paid $250 for power in 2021 against $1,550 the previous year – an 85% reduction.
These results are actually better than the numbers show given that there was significantly more activity in the station in 2021.
With the battery set to stop discharging at 65%, it usually powers the Station up to midnight before switching to the grid. This is a compromise to allow a good margin of storage for emergency back-up. Lowering the discharge percentage would further reduce power bills and greenhouse emissions.
Asked if the system has proved to be good use of community funds, Brigade Treasurer Andrew Howlett AFSM said, “Most definitely! The reduction in electricity costs will more than cover the brigade/community contribution within 5 years," he said.
"For the environment, it is most positive with us more than halving our greenhouse gas emissions and as a community-based organisation, we have shown leadership in our community.
"For emergency power, it was cheaper than a generator to instal with no need for regular maintenance and fuelling. Overall, we believe this to be a viable option for both new stations and existing infrastructure."
||Andrew Howlett AFSM