Melbourne park goes solar

A new play facility has arrived at Melbourne’s Fitzroy Adventure Playground. It’s not a slide, nor is it a set of monkey bars. It’s something very different.

This playscape installation is titled Coal Flowers. The commanding and intriguing structure accommodates 25 solar panels, which generate and utilise renewable energy for an on-site hut building. Coal Flowers was designed and created by sculptor Benjamin Gilbert, from Yackandandah’s award-winning Agency of Sculpture.

“Plants and solar panels both convert light energy, I wanted to draw a clear symbolic relation to this point,” Benjamin Gilbert elaborates.

The solar panels that compose the petals of the nine metre tall flower structure were designed by Richmond-based Clean Technology Partners. Enphase Energy supplied the microinverters to convert the sunlight into solar energy. Enphase’s pioneering technology allows each panel to work independently, meaning the system won’t fail if one panel isn’t functioning.

This certainly marks a futuristic addition to Australia’s oldest adventure playground. The installation was achieved thanks to the work of Cubbies, the Committee of Fitzroy Adventure Playground Inc, philanthropic donation from multiple foundations and a grant from the State Government.

For children, having a place to play is integral to social and formative development. Parks and playgrounds are a destination to meet, to play and to exercise. In densely developed inner-city areas, these spaces can also serve as a de facto backyard.

“In my view, children deserve a chance to engage with wilderness on their own terms. Failing ready access to wilderness, we build substitutes,” Gilbert adds.

It is motivating to see the government and community collaborating to make sustainability a priority in shared urban environments. Coal Flowers will entertain and educate local children for generations to come.

Benjamin Gilbert acknowledges that Coal Flowers is a groundbreaking project. “It was an opportunity to make something meaningful, not just a playground,” he notes.

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