Solar spring racing

As Melbournians flock to Flemington for the race that stops the nation, we look at the sunny side of the Victoria Racing Club’s energy reduction strategy – two solar systems totalling 400 panels.

Every year, almost a million people access Flemington Racecourse, situated in Melbourne’s north. The home of the Spring Racing Carnival, it’s so ingrained in the culture it’s a public holiday in Victoria and venue for some of Australia’s biggest music festivals.

It’s cemented its place as an Aussie institution.

What’s less known is its sustainability initiatives – something Executive General Manager for Flemington, Mark Davies, says is something they’ve been evolving over the past seven years.

Making it happen.

In 2008, Flemington started a journey towards being more sustainable in their water, waste and energy, says Mark.

“We were running one of Australia’s largest event: we had well over 300,000 people over four days attending the Melbourne Cup Carnival,” he said.

“On Cup Day, [we have] pretty much a small city if not a large town [on the premises]. Like any town or city we felt we had a responsibility to manage sustainability.”

“We thought we’d try solar panels to see what they can do. Working with AGL, they came up with this option and they had them installed by 2010 Melbourne Cup.”

A sustainable commitment.

The solar solution, created in partnership with AGL and the Victorian State Government, cost $300,000 across their superscreen and grandstand, generating more than 22,000 kilowatts of energy every year.

“The 22,000 kilowatts at the time was equated to about 40,000 kilos of carbon dioxide emissions. Reducing annual emissions … is heavily important,” says Mark.

Perception plus.

It’s a big commitment that’s been made widely known across the local community, as well as within member and customer communications.

“If you are looking from the north west towards Flemington, the solar panels stand out – they take up most of the grandstand roof: 376 panels is a big chunk of signage to let people know that solar panel are on the roof.

“So I think it’s widely known from a community point of view.”

The commitment to sustainability is also helping the racecourse win awards as a result of the measures they’ve put in place.

“In the past we have been successful in some tourism awards at the state and federal level,” says Mark.

“When we talk about sustainability, we talk about our key initiatives in water and waste [as well as] energy. The fact that we do have solar panels, and are generating that amount of power is obviously a good message.”

Cool energy savings.

For the track, there were also a number of quick wins from an energy perspective. This included changing some lights to LED and looking at more energy efficient air conditioning and building management system (BMS) controls in refrigerating some of the bars that aren’t used all year around.

“A venue such as ours that maybe racing every two weeks, we have a lot of events and functions over that time, but not every bar is going to be open every day,” explains Mark.

“If you have certain bars running over two weeks and you have a lot of stock in them… it doesn’t have to sit [at serving temperature] at all times. You can increase that temperature slightly without affecting the goods.

He cites an example of beer, which can go flat if it goes warm, so getting the right temperature balance of three degrees for serving purposes and eight or nine degrees when not being used, also reduces their energy.

The benefits of the VRC’s commitment to sustainability will once again be felt by hundreds of thousands this Spring Carnival. So as you watch the race that stops the nation, pay close attention to the screen that’s not stopping any time soon – because the sun keeps it going.

Now is a fantastic time to switch to solar. Learn how easy the change can be.