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  • Writer's pictureGlenn Christie

"The Sponge" Impact on Solar

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.

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 Christie, Briony 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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