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"The Sponge" on Solar Panel Performance 26th April 2022

Does “The Sponge” Increase Solar Panel Performance?!

Heat & dust are the two major enemies of solar farm performance; especially in the arid zone.

If you’re thinking that The Sponge has something major to do with reducing both heat & dust, you’d be on the right track.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"The Sponge" Impact on Solar Panel Performance:

 


 This amazing photo was taken by Andrew Fairney in mid November, (nearly the Australian Summer). It shows lots of arid zone Saltbush; hundreds of thousands per hectare; a mixture of species that I call “Knee-highs & Ankle-biters” & I’ve nicknamed, “The Sponge”.

The site is the Sedan Solar Farm, located in South Australia. It’s pretty dry, (around 300mm rainfall per year; 12 inches in the Imperial metric), pretty hot & dusty; what we call here in Australia, “mallee country”.

This photo is the result of three South Australian companies; one very large; SA Water (& their ZCEF Program, Nicola Murphy & two relative minnows; Succession Ecology, Glenn ChristieBriony Horner & Seeding Natives Incorporated, Andrew Randell Fairney.

As ever, within very large companies, there are fighters who work hard for their “patch”; so a special mention here for Shaun Kennedy, who “wrestled” for a budget to procure seed for & then seed these 3 farms.

The area sown was 37 hectares, (~93 acres), across 3 ZCEF Solar Farms.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong but I reckon that’s a world first for seeding under arid zone utility scale solar farms.

Succession Ecology (that’s us! 👍), supplied a tonne of “The Sponge” seed, Seeding Natives got the seed into the ground; the rain gods (☔️) delivered in their usual arid zone fashion, (spasmodic & chaotic to say the least!) & voila; there you have it, (🌱).

The story just gets better; this photo was taken just 14 months after seeding; after some appallingly long dry spells, (it’s the arid zone remember?), & a couple of huge rain events, (you might have gathered by now; no irrigation here!).

So Glenn, what’s the link between The Sponge & improved solar panel performance?

The Sponge captures dust coming onto & from the site which means less dust to coat the panels; this equates to a better performance & longer gaps between cleaning, (I count 2 wins here, 👍).

The Sponge captures all the rain, dew & fog that would normally evaporate from the soil or just channel into the drains & off site.

If the soil is holding more moisture then there’s more available to transpire from The Sponge.

All plants transpire; about 90% of the water going through them; evaporative air conditioning at landscape scale anyone?

We’re thinking at least 2 degrees temperature difference at panel height.

Another win, (3 wins in total, 👍👍👍).

The Sponge is making SA Water extra electrons & we’re developing a clear picture of how much this all makes, saves & earns, (much more to come 😎).

I’m exceptionally proud of this site & Succession Ecology’s involvement. 

 

 

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Our unique approach to revegetation involves a ‘ground up’ methodology, which floods a site with seeds of native colonising species. The use of colonising species provides rapid site stabilisation and initiates the process of recovery to build ecosystem function. These species add organic carbon to the soil, attract invertebrates, deposit seed, compete with weeds and provide cover. Colonising species in the arid zone can reproduce within 6–8 weeks of rainfall, bolstering the seedbank. These attributes provide a great catalyst for building ecosystems in the arid zone.

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