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The spectacular new Bondi Pavilion solar array in review

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There are few beachside buildings in Sydney to rival the Bondi Pavilion for history, elegance or iconic status. Built in 1928, the ‘Playground of the Pacific’ has been home to Turkish baths, epic balls and American Red Cross officers in WW2, not to mention generations of beach-loving

This month, the Smart Ease team was treated to a rooftop tour of the newly reopened pavilion by our Channel Partner Smart Commercial Solar, who recently installed a large solar array on the glorious building which crowns Bondi’s northern end.

The project

In 2015, Waverly Council commissioned Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects and Buildcorp to upgrade the pavilion, a project which ultimately took close to seven years.

This year, the restored and revitalised Bondi Pavilion was unveiled to the public, complete with preserved heritage features, a gallery, theatre, community radio station and a state-of-the-art solar array to convert Bondi Beach’s bright rays into energy.

‘This is our beloved Bondi Pavilion, but not as you remember it,’ said Waverly Mayor, Paula Masselos. ‘Keeping true to its original architecture, the restoration has been designed and built to last for decades to come.’[1]

The $38m restoration includes a 217-solar-panel array, the impressive work of our friends at Smart Commercial Solar. The panels adorn the rooftops of the single-storey wings framing the main pavilion and supply 71% of the building’s energy needs.

The challenges

The site presented many challenges, stemming mainly from the need to preserve the heritage aesthetics of this classic Italianate building. The roof itself is a work of art, designed to complement the coastal surroundings while referencing the Spanish tiles of the era, with randomly interspersed ‘rioja’ (terracotta red) tiles along with those in shades of blue, green and white.

As a result, the panel orientation is unusual, with the arrays more spaced out than usual and spread across separate rooftops at opposite ends of the site. The panels on the northern wing of the building are raised by 5%, a compromise between the 10% raised panels preferred by Smart Commercial Solar (for maximum efficiency) and completely flat panels preferred by TZG (for minimum visual intrusion).

Our perfect solar array is one big square with a cable going straight down into an inverter station nearby. But of course, that’s not the case here.

When we were installing the system, one of the early issues was how do we get the cables from the panels to the switch room where all the electrical services are. In some cases, that distance is close to 100m. We achieved it by running the cables through conduits in the roof cavities, walls and under the ground.

Frank Placko, Senior Project Manager, Smart Commercial Solar

While there is a small amount of degradation (loss of energy) in getting the solar power from the furthest wing of the pavilion to the inverter, Smart Commercial Solar were able to minimise this by ensuring all current carried is DC.

The technology

• Solar panels: 210 x Trina Tallmax M 450W
• Inverter: 1 x Sungrow SG110CX – 110kVA
• Racking (framing for the panels): Clenergy
• Grid Protection Unit (GPU) : GS110-1-MS-65-WM by Greenwood.

Why solar?

Bondi Pavilion aims to be a national and global leader in sustainability through innovative environmental technology. When complete, it will be a certified Rated Australian Building of Excellence ready for net zero accreditation, paving the way for future generations.[1]

Although the panels on the northern wings are almost imperceptible, those on the southern wing are a visible reminder to all visitors of Waverly Council’s commitment to sustainability. And, with enough energy being generated to supply of the pavilion’s needs during daylight hours, the solar power significantly offsets the energy costs of the community resource.

As our team experienced during our tour of the Bondi Pavilion solar array, there is no shortage of hot Bondi sun to power the site in spring and summer! In fact, the day we visited was so warm, we took advantage of the stunning location to grab a swim and an ice cream after our hour-long tour with the Smart Commercial Team. It was the perfect way to end a busy week, and a pleasure to see this impressive solar array in action

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