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University’s solar-powered sound system shines at Bluesfest


Sharlene King
29 March 2013

Performances in Byron Bay Bluesfest’s exclusive VIP area, the Lotus Palace, are being powered solely by the sun, thanks to Southern Cross University’s new green initiative, a solar-powered sound system, officially launched today (March 29).

Nicknamed the Sunflower, the sound system generator is the biggest in Australia in terms of its ability to support a main concert stage. It includes a 1.2kw solar panel array that opens up like the petals of a flower that can be tilted and positioned for optimum orientation to the sun.

“We are proud to officially launch the solar-powered sound system at Bluesfest, an event which has won many awards for its green initiatives and environmentally friendly practices,” said Dr Barry Hill, Contemporary Music course coordinator at Southern Cross University and Sunflower developer.

“The aim of the project is to show the way sustainable design principles can be promoted within the Australian music industry, as well as promoting best practice in alternative power generation and energy efficient audio-visual technology.”

Southern Cross University has a strong commitment to its role as a leader in achieving environmental, social and economic sustainability through its teaching, research and operations.

Bluesfest boss Peter Noble welcomed the Sunflower to the festival.

“I applaud SCU for developing this outstanding innovation. The Sunflower is another significant step forward to achieving our environmental goals.

“The triple bottom line is important to me and in time Bluesfest will also come to be known as a greenfest. People will come specifically to soak up our special vibe with an awareness they are partying up with full respect to our earth.”

The Sunflower launch in the Lotus Palace featured a panel discussion on sustainable innovation in an arts and cultural context with Byron Shire Mayor Cr Simon Richardson Council, Dr Barry Hill and Peter Noble, and moderated by George Negus.

The sunflower was designed by SCU Visual Arts technicians and students. The battery storage and electronics were developed as part of a University professional placement and research and learning project to power a 5kw sound system that uses the latest digital audio amplification technology.

Across the Bluesfest weekend students will be assisting SCU technicians operate the solar-powered sound system at the Lotus Palace. The venue will feature performances by Christine Anu, Leah Flanagan, Tjupurru and Russell Morris, while the SCU Showcase slots give Contemporary Music students the opportunity to perform to festivalgoers.

Dr Hill said as part of a feasibility study into alternative energy use at music festivals the students would be monitoring the venue’s power consumption and logging the solar energy generation data.

“Music festivals are not just about music these days. Music festivals are a great place to show off new creative ideas.

“Operating this sort of cutting-edge technology gives SCU Contemporary Music students the opportunity to extend their industry connections which are vital to creating a pathway into the music industry once they graduate,” said Dr Hill.

Contemporary Music and Visual Arts technicians and students worked with industry partners – Creative Environment Enterprises, EV Energy Systems, and local alternative energy company Rainbow Power Company – to help design and build the mobile system with a focus on developing the project as an interactive audio visual art installation as well as an energy generator. Custom metal fabrications for the solar panel array were constructed and safety-certified by local metalwork design company North Coast Fabrications.

The sunflower project was funded by the SCU School of Arts and Social Sciences and a grant provided by the SCU Sustainability Fund.

Bluesfest runs from March 28 to April 1

Photo: Dr Barry Hill (left) with Contemporary Music student Dylan Blackman.