The aim of the Sunflower project is to develop a 'think green' ethos within the Australian music industry.

Dr Barry Hill, Lead researcher,
Sunflower project

Image: Woodford Folk Festival

Sunflower: a solar-powered AV production system

The Faculty of Business, Law and Arts is proud to be the creators of one of Australia's first fully operational commercial mobile solar generator systems, nicknamed the Sunflower.

The design prototype shows that portable diesel generators can be replaced with solar-powered systems.

“The aim of the Sunflower project is to develop a 'think green' ethos within the Australian music industry and to promote best practice in solar and alternative power generation and efficient audio-visual technology,” said Dr Barry Hill, lead of the Sunflower project and Senior Lecturer in audio technology and music in the Faculty's Contemporary Music program.

The Sunflower was designed and built at the Lismore campus by a team of audio technology and creative design researchers and technicians working together with the involvement of local Lismore-based solar energy and engineering companies.

The Sunflower is designed to be compatible with commercial music and event audio and lighting systems. It can also function as a portable solar mobile phone charging hub, as well as a mobile solar powered Wi-Fi hotspot.

Sunflower features:

  • A custom-engineered, high efficiency, variable azimuth portable solar panel array and a lithium battery storage bank: this produces enough electricity to safely power a festival stage entirely from solar energy.
  • An innovative and custom-designed Wi-Fi remote monitoring system that checks solar energy generation, storage and consumption.
  • High visual and educational impact: designed to be iconic and like a giant flower sculpture that can be tilted and positioned for optimum orientation to the sun with artwork specially designed to engage the community and teach event attendees about solar energy.
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Sunflower’s AAA pass

Since its official launch at the Byron Bay Bluesfest in 2013 the Sunflower has been installed at more than 50 major music, arts and community events in NSW and QLD. These include high profile festivals like Vivid Sydney, Splendour in the Grass, Woodford Folk Festival, Byron Writers Festival, and Island Vibes Music Festival.

At each of these installations, the Sunflower powers various sound and lighting infrastructure in performance stages and venues. It is also used as a creative art and music installation.

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Using solar to reduce our footprint

The Sunflower Project was initially launched as an interdisciplinary community engagement and arts-led research project that uses creative technology design, interactive social media and multimedia art to investigate community understanding of energy use.

“More than 80 percent of people we surveyed at festivals say the Sunflower project has increased their knowledge of electricity and sustainable energy systems,” says Dr Hill.

The Sunflower’s captivating sculptural visual design and unique open-source power management software has given it the capacity to function simultaneously as:

  • A solar technology prototype
  • A research data-collection tool for understanding energy use at festivals and community events
  • A mobile soundscape art installation incorporating a unique open source autonomous solar data sonification system
  • A community engagement project/activation point that engages festival and event participants around the integration of environmentally sustainable energy systems into the event industry and the broader community.
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A pioneering creative design prototype

Dr Hill has led workshops and discussions about the basics of electricity and sustainable energy integration. His presentations often involve performance and conversation, where the data generated by the Sunflower produces sound used in musical performance, and visual graphs of energy data (see image at right) form the basis for discussions about the nature of solar power and storage.

The Sunflower project has been featured on the ABC Science Show, was the winner of the 2014 Southern Cross University 5-Minute Research Pitch (5RP) competition, and a finalist in the 2014 national 5-Minute Research Pitch (5RP) competition.

The project has received seed funding through the Southern Cross University Sustainability Fund and is now a commercially-funded research project.

Dr Hill is now publishing the historical data of the project as part of an ongoing research project that is investigating innovative sustainable power solutions for outdoor events as well as creating sound compositions using data-sonification techniques that capture the ‘Sound of Sunlight’.

Want the Sunflower to power your event?

The Sunflower is available for events and community groups. Contact Barry Hill for more information.


Sunflower FAQs

Southern Cross University Audio Technology Researchers have constructed of one of Australia's first fully operational mobile solar energy generator prototypes, nicknamed “the Sunflower”.

The design prototype functions as a fully operational power supply as well as a creative art installation demonstrating how diesel generators can now be replaced with Solar/ Lithium battery systems at off-grid events.

“The aim of the Sunflower project is to develop a 'think green' ethos within the Australian music industry and to promote best practice in solar and alternative power generation and efficient audio-visual technology,” (Dr. Barry Hill, Senior Lecturer in music and audio technology and lead researcher of the Sunflower project)

The Solar Sunflower is designed for use at music festivals and similar off-grid applications to power audio equipment and energy-efficient professional LED lighting systems.

No. The Sunflower system has a built-in Lithium battery bank that allows it to be used at evening and night-time events and does not need sunny weather or daylight to operate.

The Solar Sunflower provides SINGLE PHASE 240v AC power. 

We have designed the Sunflower to be able to power audio visual production systems that have an electricity current draw of an average of 15amps 240VAC.

Talk to us for more information about power output via partnerships@scu.edu.au.

This will depend on what electrical equipment you are using at your event. The Sunflower has a 19KWH Lithium Battery pack.  To give you a guide, the Sunflower can provide 10 amps (2400 watts) of continuous 240v AC power for 6-8 hours without any solar charge.  Our research has found that 10KW sound systems use on average about 5 amps per hour.

Talk to us for more information about the length of operation via partnerships@scu.edu.au.

Yes, very easy.  It does need to be installed by a trained technician but this takes less than 30 minutes. After that, it can be monitored remotely via smartphone.

Yes. The Solar Sunflower features an innovative and custom-designed Wi-Fi remote monitoring system that checks solar energy generation, storage and consumption.

Anyone is able to log in and see this data when the system is ‘switched on’. 

This is a key aspect of the project that aims to educate the community on the potential of Solar power and alternative technologies.

  • 6x 200-watt solar panels mounted in a distinctive Flower shaped tilting/folding frame that can be deployed in a variety of orientations optimised for power generation.
  • Pure Sine Wave 3KW La Tronics inverter.
  • 10-amp and 15-amp Single Phase power outputs. All components are stored in secure vandal-proof waterproof locked compartments.
  • 800 AH 19KWH 24 Volt DC Lithium battery storage pack.
  • The total weight of the system is 1300kg.

The Sunflower is mounted in a standard box trailer that can be towed by any vehicle with a braked towing capacity of 2000kg or more.  The Sunflower is equipped with electric brakes and a remote Bluetooth Brake controller that allows any vehicle to tow it

For events far from Northern NSW, it can be transported by rail or road transport.

Contact partnerships@scu.edu.au for more information.

The Sunflower Project concept was created by Southern Cross University Music and Technology Researcher Dr. Barry Hill.  It was designed and built at Southern Cross University Lismore campus by a team of audio technology and creative design researchers and technicians working together in consultation with Australian solar energy and engineering companies.

Yes, we have even turned it into a musical instrument! The Sunflowers Iconic design and technology has seen it installed as an art installation at events such as Vivid Sydney Splendour in the Grass and Woodford Folk Festival.

For more information on this aspect of the project contact barry.hill@scu.edu.au

The Solar Sunflower is available to be used at any event and has been installed at more than 50 events across Australia.

Contact partnerships@scu.edu.au for more information.


Contact the Faculty of Business, Law and Arts - Southern Cross

Executive Dean of Faculty

T: +61 7 5589 3054

E: fbla.ea@scu.edu.au

Associate Dean (Education)

T: +61 7 5589 3209

E: david.noble@scu.edu.au

Associate Dean (Research)

T: +61 7 5589 3036

E: darshana.sedera@scu.edu.au

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