HON GIZ WATSON (North Metropolitan) [5.37 pm]: I want to say a few words about a very positive event that I attended last week to launch the solar water heating panels on the roof of the Bunbury sporting complex. I should add that this is the largest installation of solar panels of this nature in the Southern Hemisphere. It is very impressive indeed. The solar system heats almost three million litres of water used in the two indoor swimming pools. This is an excellent initiative that is jointly funded by royalties for regions, some federal money and also some money from the City of Bunbury. It was a pleasure to be shown the project and to get on the roof and see the panels in operation. As a former builder, I have a particular interest in this technology because it is different from the normal flat panels used for heating water that are a common sight on people’s roofs in Australia. The heating system uses evacuated tube heat pipes, which have been used extensively in Europe for at least the last four decades. That is a particularly useful system because of a number of features. It is circular and therefore tracks the sun and picks up the sun’s heat, even at low angles. As the earth moves around the sun, the solar heating system continues to maximise the amount of heat it absorbs. It also absorbs heat on cloudy days because it does not rely only on direct solar rays; it also picks up ultraviolet rays. It is a very efficient system. The project cost about $518 000 but is saving a significant amount of money already. It will probably be paid off in about six or seven years, depending, of course, on whether the price of gas goes up. If it does, the heating system will be paid off even more quickly. It has about 240 solar panels and it produces 550 kilowatts of energy per hour. It has already taken $68 000 off the sport centre’s power bill; normally the water is heated by gas.
This is a real plus for Bunbury, a real plus for reducing the carbon footprint of that complex, and a great innovation by Supreme Heating. I made a point while I was in Bunbury of saying that it would be great if we could see this kind of project being rolled out across other sports complexes in the south west, because many of the sports centres have swimming pools and this sort of technology, with a little capital assistance invested at the outset, would save the ratepayers an enormous amount of money and also dramatically reduce the carbon footprint from heating swimming pools, so it is a win–win. Apparently the project is so successful that it looks likely to produce excess heat—more than is required to heat the pools—so they are looking at extending the heating to the showers, spas and other ancillary heating requirements in the complex.
Congratulations to the City of Bunbury for initiating that project, doing the costings and getting it installed. Hopefully we will see more of these sorts of projects being rolled out, not only in the south west but also in the metropolitan area; I understand that there is some interest in the metro area for these particular solar heating systems. As I say, they are particularly well suited to the southern parts of the state where there is not so much direct sunlight because it is often overcast. What fascinated me is that they are very robust and are rated as being “cockatoo-proof”! Cockatoos apparently quite like attacking flat panels and pulling them apart, but these are hardened glass so the cockatoos cannot get into them. They can withstand hailstones of up to 25 millimetres, so they are very tough. Some big storms came through about a month ago, just after the installation was completed. People were concerned about how the system would stand up to those levels of high wind. I was in the south west that weekend, in Donnybrook, and there were trees coming down; it was a serious wind event, but these panels were unaffected. Unlike the flat panels, the wind cannot get underneath them and lift them up, because there is a gap between the tubes.
This is a great initiative, and I thought it was worth pointing out to members that they might like to talk to councillors in their areas to look at this sort of initiative for their sports complexes.