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First Public EV charging station in Australia powered by a solar car park structure
by Staff Writers
Byron Bay, Australia (SPX) Dec 05, 2014

File image.

Australia's first public Electric Vehicle (EV) charging station powered by a solar car park structure, the first EV charging station on the Pacific Highway, and one of the largest solar installations on the Far North Coast, was launched today at Macadamia Castle near Byron Bay.

The launch was led by Green's energy spokesman Dr. John Kaye MLC and attended by Tony Gilding, owner of Macadamia Castle, Iain McGregor, Chief Energy Analyst and Project Developer for Smart Commercial Solar, and a number of politicians and citizens.

A large banner was unfurled from the car park solar structure and charging station that read: Solar is good for humanity (with the word coal struck out in reference to comments recently made by the Prime Minister).

"This Tony (as opposed to the Prime Minister) happens to think that solar is good for humanity. It is such a thrill for me to be setting an example of what is possible for small business despite the best attempts of fossil fuel companies to slow this inevitable swing to renewables." said Tony Gilding, owner of The Macadamia Castle.

The 45kW system, which features 180 panels arrayed on a durable, purpose-built car canopy structure, also known as a solar carshade, will generate half of the Macadamia Castle's energy needs in addition to charging visitors' electric vehicles.

"This is about how trusted, proven technologies can be brought together with smart partnerships to allow business assets like car parks to deliver new dimensions of value for a business and its customers," said Iain McGregor of Smart Commercial Solar (

Greens NSW MP John Kaye said: "This project is a beacon for our green economy future. Solar panels and electric vehicles are the perfect match that are almost certainly going to play a key role in the energy systems of the next fifty years."

Gilding said that he had initially planned a solar installation for the roof of the Castle, but tree cover made this unfeasible. Smart Commercial Solar, which specialises in business-feasible solar, introduced Tony to a solar car park structure that would solve this problem and add the extra benefit of providing shade for visitor vehicles so they can return to a cooler car, as well as serving as an EV charge station.

"The advantage of a solar car park was immediately obvious to me because it can be placed in the best location to maximise the sun. Leaving aside the obvious environmental benefits, the business case for a solar car park is incredibly strong," said Gilding.

It is estimated that there are more than 200,000 commercial car parks in Australia. If even half of this number were equipped with solar car park structures, about 7.2 gigawatts of electricity could be generated per year, roughly $2 billion dollars worth of retail-priced electricity.

According to Gilding, Macadamia's move to solar was prompted by "shockingly bad service" from his electricity supplier and retailer and the exorbitant cost of conventionally generated energy, as well as the the obvious benefits of non-polluting solar. He hopes to make Macadamia Castle entirely energy independent in the future.

"You could say this is a first step in making it possible to drive a solar-powered electric car up and down our coast from Brisbane to Adelaide. I want this launch to inspire people so that we start seeing these amazing and practical structures in our local shopping centres and next to our roads, powering our businesses and our vehicles," Gilding said.

EV owner, Robert Rosen, thinks the solar car shade charging station is great.

"This allows me to drive down to The Macadamia Castle, have lunch and a look around while my car is charging. It expands my vehicle's range and opportunities," Rosen said.

Rosen also helped finance the project with local investor Vicki Brooke through a unique funding approach that supports businesses like Gilding's make the move to solar. "I'm passionate about increasing the uptake of solar in our region and I'd rather use my super to invest in renewables than anything else," Brooke said.

"The financial return is also better."

"This fast forwards the likelihood of a future in which businesses and individuals have their own car shade with electric cars serving as an effective battery bank to store excess electricity and utilise a portion of that power. It offers the exciting prospect for a smarter power grid of the future," McGregor added.

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