Cultana Solar Farm to roll the dust away

Environment, Renewable energy > 16th February, 2021

Sustainability is well and truly at the heart of our Cultana Solar Farm initiative, with an innovative technique set to be used to preserve native vegetation and reduce dust during construction.

Instead of ripping up the landscape and vegetation with graders, rollers will be used to flatten the saltbush and bluebush, maintaining surface vegetation without breaking the surface and importantly keeping the deep root systems, which hold and keep the soil intact, alive.

SIMEC Energy Australia CEO Marc Barrington says the technique, developed by South Australian company Succession Ecology, had many benefits and was successfully trialled at Cultana in late 2018.

“Solar farms in arid environments usually have a dust problem that can impact the efficiency and production of the panels moreover create issues and concerns for the local community,” Barrington says.

“If there’s less dust, the panels work more effectively and there’s less costs – with a reduction in the need to clean the panels and also reduced need for water trucks usually needed to suppress dust not to mention saving many clotheslines of washing!”

A rolled section from the 2018 trial (left), and the same area – regenerated and recovered – in December 2020 (right).

Barrington says the rolling would be done in sections just ahead of where the panel installation was taking place and would not disturb vegetation between panel rows. Another innovative feature would be the use of an automated robotic vehicle to clean the solar panels using compressed air and brushed to further reduce the need to use water at the site.

The site, to the north of GFG’s Whyalla Steelworks, is set to house 780,000 solar panels capable of generating 600GWh of energy generation per year, enough to power 96,000 homes. It has received regulatory approvals with construction to begin once financial close has been completed, Marc said.

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