April 15th 2010
Support for shady Solar Park overwhelming
Last night a public meeting voted overwhelming support for Ergon and Solar Cities to build a Solar Park on Magnetic Island that will include a number of solar power-capturing shade structures at the former Sport and Recreation Club site at Horseshoe Bay. The structures are expected cost $300,000 and support $1.4 million worth of electricity producing photo-voltaic panels.
The meeting, attended by about 30 residents, was shown a model of the new structures as designed by Insideout Architects' Ms Tania Dennis who developed the design in conjunction with a community working group which formed late last year.
The new structures will dramatically enhance the useability of the sports facility with the largest area covered – an idea first suggested by Horseshoe Bay resident and working group member, Danielle Ryan - to go above the skate park space. Covering the skate park alone, the distinctive concertina style roof - angled for optimum sun exposure, will provide over 90 kilowatts of solar power which will actually produce, or generate, upwards of 340 kilowatt hours of energy each day and will be fed into the grid on Magnetic Island.
A roof and backing panels to protect the stage area is also being provided compliments of Ergon. It will extend from the present club building across the stage and out some metres onto the ground to provide much needed shade for spectators at events held on the oval. The present A-frame structure Ergon added to the entrance of the Smart lifestyle Centre will be relocated towards the street where it will be utilised as a bus stop.
Another smaller shade structure will be placed near the oval's edge adjacent to the bottom corner of the old club's walled perimeter. This space will give visiting teams' supporters a special area where they can enjoy the action and where coaches can discuss tactics with some privacy from the home side.
View of the skate park and rest of complex behindView of the skate park from oval sideView of skate park as if from Horseshoe Bay RdView of the complex with covered stage foreground - from the south
The shaded skate park will however become more of a destination for family picnics. Barbeque facilities will be added to an interpretive display about the solar cities project and the operation of the Solar Park and parents will have an ideal location to keep an eye on the kids skating.
Low energy LED lighting is planned so that skaters will be able to continue their sport after dark. Discussions with Townsville City Council to determine just how the lights can be managed and at what time a lights-out time might be set are yet to be organised.
The numerous skate park users attending the meeting were very happy with the results.
Referring to the original idea to place an array of solar panels over a large area of the grounds, Ergon's Solar Cities Manager, Ian Cruishank said, “We started with a pigs ear and, working through it with the community, turned it into a silk purse!”
One resident, Mr Mike Schmidt from Nelly Bay, who opposed the project - believing it was a land-grab by Ergon, attended the meeting and asked many questions. By the end of the evening however, Mike Schmidt's only significant objection concerned the placement of a support post for the stage structure which he considered dangerous for children running on the grounds. The working group and architect will rework the design to eliminate the obstruction. When the vote was taken to proceed all attending voted in support of the plan however Mike Schmidt abstained.
Ian Cruishank said, “I am really pleased because it showed that the community and the project could work together. It's a very practical outcome that works as a solar park and provides amenities that the community can enjoy into the future without being a deterrent to the recreation ground”.
Ian Cruishank's comments were echoed by Community Working Group Chair, Mr John Wicking who told Magnetic Times, “I was quite pleased with the meeting last night and the acceptance of the Solar Park design. I think it was representative of the engagement of the Magnetic Island Community and the Ergon Solar Cities' Team.
John Wicking went on to say, “Many aspects of the recreation facility are supported by Council maintenance of the grounds with mowing etc and the provision of ample water for the playing fields, which would be rock-hard other wise. The Solar Park now compliments this, and it will turn the area into a far better facility for the Island residents and visitors alike.”
Questions were again raised as to the future of the facility. Ergon's Julie Heath reiterated that Solar Cities would leave when its lease expired around the end of 2012 – returning the facility to Townsville City Council who would then be able to return the assets to the Island community. Following this, John Wicking made an important point that the community should start now to reform a new Sports and Recreation Club that will be in a position to receive the facility for the benefit of the community once Solar Cites departs. He observed that the last Club's Committee disbanded with debts owing to local businesses and organisations. John Wicking believes a new management needs to face the past and restore confidence before the community can expect the complex to be handed back by Council.
A work schedule is yet to be set but the expectation is later this year and instructions that work avoid school holidays and that the worksite be left as clear as possible after hours and on weekends to enable skating and other uses to continue. Tania Dennis expected that the construction period would last for approximately eight weeks.
Story and photos of Solar Park model by George Hirst
(Disclaimer: George Hirst was also a member of the Community Working Group for this project)
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