The Clean Energy Council’s 2019 Solar Design and Installation Awards included shining examples of what this talented industry can do with more than a few modules when imaginations are let off the leash.

WINNER: Over 240kW

Christopher Hackett and Dimitar Live, GEM Energy

Australia Zoo, Landsborough, Queensland

GEM Energy principal electrician Christopher Hackett says the brief for this job was simple: “We have been awarded the Australia Zoo Project, go and install the best solar system Australia has seen.”

“Our solution was to present a case study to the network that the solar system would not be detrimental to the local electricity network and could in fact support it,” Hackett says. “The installation was a matter of pride. Delivering this project on the roof of the café and Crocoseum using entirely in-house resources meant we had control of quality from engineering stage all the way through to commissioning.”

The team used 1,799 Canadian Solar Kumax Polygen modules, with a custom batch in all-black for the cafeteria, with SolarEdge P370w DC optimisers and a mixture of SolaEdge inverters.

“Initially, we were limited to a minimum 30kW import restriction,” he says. “After installation, and through negotiation, we were able to have a complete reversal on the network’s decision to allow a maximum export of over 300kW.” He estimates bill savings for the client somewhere between 35-40%.

Hackett’s boss is happy, too. “The CEO was recently in Korea where he was shown pictures of an exemplary installation. It was Australia Zoo.”

WINNER: Systems 30-240kW

Jamie Thorncraft and Natalie Collins, Todae Solar

Australian Technology Park, Sydney

A dynamic project from a dynamic duo – Jamie Thorncraft, who has worked in the Australian solar industry for over a decade, managing his own installation business and working as head of installation at Todae Solar in the commercial and industrial space, and Natalie Collins, an energy engineer with solar design experience in France, the US, West Africa and Australia.

The 87kW system on a custom-built floating steel structure at the Australian Technology Park in Sydney helped the client achieve a 5-star NABERS rating and carbon neutrality for this community building. The system powers Australia’s first rooftop indigenous garden and provides shade to a playground below. Custom cassettes and sub frames were manufactured offsite and assembled on the roof. Sunpower panels were used with SolarEdge inverters and optimisers.

“This job was a huge team effort involving structural, mechanical, civil and electrical engineers, architects, experienced project managers, WHS officers, purchasing and logistics officers, electricians, solar installers and traffic management,” says a spokesperson from Todae. “This project was implemented safely, without a hiccup, and Todae is looking forward to continuing to develop innovative solutions for other buildings in the Australian Technology Park.”

WINNER: Under 30kW stand-alone PV power system

Scott Hansen and William Andersson, Smart Commercial Solar

Property in rural NSW

Working with Smart Commercial Solar, Scott Hanson and William Andersson designed and installed a 25kW three-phase off-grid solar system with an 86kWh battery at a large property in rural NSW. In addition to saving the client more than $80,000 in grid connection costs, the installation serves as an excellent case study for the Australian market as an early deployment of a three-phase off-grid system.

WINNER: Under 30kW grid connect PV power system with battery back-up

Johnson Lee, Australia Wide Solar

Sydney residential

Australia Wide Solar’s Johnson Lee designed and installed a 4kW solar PV system with 10kWh of battery backup at Sydney’s award-winning Welcome to the Jungle house. By mounting the solar panels on the building vertically, the installation demonstrates integrated sustainability in architectural design while creating an attractive facade and freeing up space for a rooftop garden.

WINNER: Under 30kW grid connect PV power system

Nigel Phillips, Electrical Sensation

St Anthony’s Catholic Church, Harristown, Queensland

Nigel Phillips of Electrical Sensation has been installing solar power systems since 2008, when the Queensland government introduced the Queensland Solar Homes Project. ”Most of our work is new residential solar installs, upgrades and repairs,” Phillips says, “and battery add-ons are becoming more popular. We do small commercial solar systems, less than 100kW, as well.”

The client, St Anthony’s Catholic Church in Harristown, Queensland, wanted something a bit “different” and more interesting than just the standard two-row installation, “so I designed a system shaped in a cross”. The roof of the building was being replaced at the same time as the solar install and profile of the roof changed throughout the project, “which added to the challenge”. Sumec PhonoSolar panels were teamed with a Fronius Symo inverter, Hopergy racking and Solar Analytics monitoring.

Phillips is ”absolutely” happy with the result. “The panels lined up perfectly and it is beautifully balanced — a really schmick-looking system! The client is super happy with the aesthetics as well.”