At Reef HQ Aquarium we want to make sure that our impact on the environment is kept to a minimum. We are taking a number of steps to improve the way we operate and also encourage our visitors to take similar initiatives.
Recently we upgraded our solar energy system to increase its capacity and while still open, we introduced a ‘single use’ policy within our café called ‘Reef-fuse single use’
We look forward to continuing to implement eco-friendly and sustainable initiatives to decrease our carbon footprint as we refurbish the aquarium.
Solar Power Plant -
We use a great deal of energy in our day to day activities so it was a logical step for us to try and minimise our energy footprint.
In 2006 Reef HQ Aquarium installed a series of high yield solar panels to capture the energy from daylight and convert it into usable and sustainable electricity to help run Reef HQ Aquarium.
When first installed, our 'Power plant' on average, generated upwards of 752 kWh of electricity per day. That's enough to power 34 Queensland homes.
This helped offset our energy usage by 25% / 30% and provided us with a 260 tonne reduction in greenhouse gas emissions each year.
Reef HQ Aquarium gained the status of ‘Solar Power Station’, the first time this was accredited to a Queensland tourism location.
In 2018-19, Reef HQ Aquarium produced 104,400 kWh of solar energy, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 1,726 tonnes!
In May 2019 Reef HQ Aquarium upgraded this solar energy system with the installation of an additional 153 solar panel, bringing the total to 950 roof mounted solar panels. This provides an even greater saving on ongoing energy costs and reducing our emissions even further. In September 2019, energy use was down 58%.
Combine this with more efficient ways of lighting and better cooling for the building & display tanks, the experience at Reef HQ Aquarium will be a big improvement for visitors, our exhibits and the environment.
Thermal Energy -
Reef HQ Aquarium will soon become the first aquarium in the world to run a revolutionary new thermal energy storage and renewable energy system.
The technology developed by Glaciem Cooling Technologies uses an onsite thermal battery to store excess solar power generated by our solar array, as ice. The stored thermal energy can be used at night to power life support systems and temperature controls for Reef HQ’s coral reef exhibit, the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium, which requires uninterrupted power 24/7.
To read more about the technology, click the link here.
This project received funding from ARENA as part of ARENA's Advancing Renewables Program. Reef HQ Aquarium is one of just three Australian businesses included in the program.
Battery storage -
Completing our self-sufficient energy requirements is the installation of an electrical storage system to store our renewable energy.
The system has the capacity to store 90kWh. This is the equivalent energy needs to power almost five 3-bedroom homes for 24hours. While not a big system, it will buy us precious time if we have issues with our other emergency power systems. It can also provide important peak load shaving when the solar power is low but building lows are still high and it offers a storage system when we have excess solar power generated in the middle of the day.
The batteries are sodium nickel chloride batteries (solid state salt). The technology has been proven and used in Europe for decades, but is not as common in Australia. The attributes that made these batteries ideal for Reef HQ Aquarium, is that they don't mind being in a hot and corrosive environment. The battery technology uses heated salt (NaCl) at the negative electrode and nickel (Ni) as the positive electrode. The battery's safe chemistry assures it has zero harmful emissions and is completely recyclable, with battery materials recycled to produce stainless steel, the nickel and iron go into alloys and the salt and ceramic are used for road beds. They are a bit heavier than Lithium batteries, but are much lighter than lead alternatives.
Sustainability in Capital Works -
Sustainability is a key component of value for money procurement decisions.
In June 2017, Reef HQ Aquarium replaced the carpet with new carpet made from 100 percent recycled plastic, including discarded fishing nets pulled from the oceans around the Philippines and Cameroon. Lost and discarded nylon fishing nets, known as "ghost nets", are a huge problem globally, estimated at roughly 10 percent of the millions of tons of plastic trash in the world's oceans.
The manufacturing of concrete is responsible for 8% of the world's carbon emissions. Reef HQ Aquarium stipulates concrete contractors use a minimum of 30 percent fly ash, which uses 65 - 80 percent less carbon emissions. Reef HQ use fibre-glass reinforced plastic reinforcement bars in highly corrosive areas to increase the life span of the structures.
As part of Reef HQ Aquarium's responsible disposal of waste, we utilise skips who sort through all the waste material and recycle or re-use all rubbish where possible. Concrete, blocks and dirt get turned into road base. Timber and greenwaste gets turned into mulch. Steel, copper and other metals goes to steel recyclers.
Reef-fuse single use -
At Reef HQ Aquarium we take our responsibilities very seriously and that includes minimising the waste produced & the impact on the environment as part of our daily operations. Inspiring behaviour change to reduce waste and increase environmental awareness has been achieved through a holistic retail sustainability strategy.
One bottle of water takes 3-7 litres of water and one litre of oil to produce. We installed a water hydration station and were encouraging guests to bring their own water bottle to refill. For those guests who wanted to purchase water, water was available packaged in a paper-based bottle with a plant-based cap.
Takeaway Coffee Cups
Most takeaway coffee cups have a thin plastic lining hidden in their paper walls, which prevents them from being recycled. Prior to COVID we removed all takeaway coffee cups from the cafe, with options to either dine in, bring their own keep cup or purchase a Reef HQ branded cup, which included a free coffee.
Where single-use takeaway packaging was needed, we used Biopak products, which are a sustainable alternative to conventional items. Sugarcane BioPlates are made from reclaimed and rapidly renewable sugarcane pulp and are certified home compostable. Sugarcane BioBowls are home compostable and certified carbon neutral. BioCups are made from plants and are commercially compostable.
In our gift shop we implemented a merchandising strategy, which included:
- Stocking products that supported a plastic-free lifestyle:
- alternatives to plastic straws: bamboo, metal, silicon
- bamboo cutlery
- reusable produce bags and other bags, some made from recycled plastic bottles
- reusable drink bottles and coffee cups
- Sourcing items that were made from recycled or sustainable materials, like the Turtle Hospital merchandise, which is predominantly made from recycled bottles.
- Choosing suppliers that minimised packaging or use recyclable packaging.
As we are closed for refurbishments, we will investigate other initiatives, products and options to ensure that when we reopen we continue to reef-fuse single use and provide alternatives for our guests.
Reef HQ Aquarium encourage all staff and visitors to commit to a small action that can make at home or at work to decrease their environmental footprint. You can read more about these tips and other initiatives we have implemented to Reef-fuse Single Use Plastics, by clicking the link here.
As our journey progresses, we will keep you up-to-date.