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CASS News

Energy use and the ATNF

Environmental sustainability is central to CSIRO research and operations, and we acknowledge the need to manage our impacts on the natural environment and the communities in which we work.

In operating the Australia Telescope National Facility we have several initiatives in place to reduce energy usage and carbon emissions. These include the use of a hybrid solar-diesel power station (1.85 MW in solar) at our Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Western Australia; this is supported by one of Australia’s largest off-grid lithium battery storage facilities to store and use solar-generated power once the Sun goes down.

Having a power station at our observatories is complicated by the need to protect our radio telescopes from radio frequency interference generated by the power station itself. At the MRO we developed innovative, low-cost shielding solutions for the hybrid solar-diesel power station.

For the Parkes, ATCA and Mopra instruments that make up the ATNF, we are reducing our reliance on non-renewable power sources by entering into clean power purchasing agreements.

Astronomers also have access to a share of observing time on NASA's Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC), which we manage. We are installing a photovoltaic array at CDSCC that will supply almost 30 per cent of the site's power.

Our ASKAP radio telescope, located at the MRO, uses the resources of the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth for processing data collected with the telescope. Pawsey generates solar power from a rooftop photovoltaic system and uses geothermal heat exchange to cool its supercomputers. Find out more about Pawsey's sustainability initiatives: https://pawsey.org.au/our-green-credentials/.

Renewable power technologies are being planned for the international Square Kilometre Array project, whose low frequency telescope and power station will be built at the MRO. For more information on the SKA and environmental sustainability visit the SKA website: https://www.skatelescope.org/skao-sustainability-faqs/.

We will continue to actively manage the energy demands of the ATNF, and work with the astronomy community to further reduce the energy footprint of the facility.

Added by Gabby Russell on 2020-09-11

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