The Australian Museum has always managed Lizard Island Research Station to minimise its environmental impact and to provide stewardship for its extraordinary natural environment. As new systems and services become available, the ways in which we do that change and improve. The recent 30th Anniversary Development has provided several new ways of improving our interactions with the environment, including a 30 kW solar array for producing electricity.
Long-standing practices at LIRS include responsible handling of waste, minimising impacts on the groundwater supply and being as energy-efficient as possible. In particular, LIRS has operated with the following initiatives for many years:
- hot water is provided by solar hot water systems
- dry composting toilets are used throughout the Station
- houses are well ventilated and have wide eaves and verandahs so there is no need for air conditioning
- gas is used for cooking
- fruit and vegetable waste is composted on site
- materials are re-used wherever possible
- office paper, glass, aluminium, and most plastics are sent to the mainland for recycling
- non-recyclable waste is sent to the mainland for landfill
- waste laboratory chemicals are disposed of appropriately
- marine research activities are carefully managed
- weeds on land are managed with dedication
The 30th Anniversary Development provided an opportunity to reduce the station's environmental footprint even further.
- Careful design of the Ian Potter Centre for Tropical Marine Research provides for passive cooling of the central research area: its roof acts as a venturi to draw hot air from this large area so that air conditioners in the labs and offices do not have to work as hard.
- Efficient inverter technology was chosen for the air conditioners that are still necessary in these work areas.
- Energy efficient lighting and appliances were important specifications throughout the upgrade project.
- Four-stroke outboard motors use less fuel and produce fewer emissions than the older two-stroke technology and they are now being used effectively on the Station’s larger boats. However, a trial on the dinghies showed that smaller four-stroke motors are not yet reliable enough for use in remote areas, so we have had to revert to two-strokes for these boats.
- An air bank enables more efficient use of power for filling scuba tanks.
- In 2011, one of the major components of the 30th Anniversary Development was commissioned: a 30 kW solar array that replaces about 65% of the diesel used for generating electricity.
A report on the planning, implementation, and the first six months of running the solar power system is at: LIRS solar power system report.
The Sunny Portal site for Lizard Island provides near real-time production data from the solar power system as well as photos showing its construction (this link will take you out of the Australian Museum web site).