A green solution dawns on centre

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 February, 2011, 12:00am

China Light and Power (CLP Power) plans to build a 192- kilowatt solar and wind power system for drug rehabilitation centre Operation Dawn on Town Island in southeast Sai Kung.

This is the second phase of the company's solar energy project for Operation Dawn. Last year, it unveiled a 20-kilowatt system which uses 100 solar panels to replace the centre's three diesel electrical generators. The system provided energy for the chapel, kitchen, dormitory and farming grounds.

In the second phase, 572 solar panels and two windmills will be added. These will supply energy to the new dormitories and visitor centre.

When the project is completed next year, it will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 70, 000 kilograms.

'The rehabilitation centre used to turn on the diesel generators only for four to five hours a day to power refrigerators and lights,' Ma Chun-fai, CLP operations manager (East & West Region), said.

'The inmates cannot use the energy for electric fans on hot summer nights. Those who cannot stand the heat have to sleep outdoors. But now, with the new system, they can enjoy electricity for 24 hours a day.'

CLP once considered traditional energy methods like overhead lines and submarine cables, but they dropped the proposals for fear of the potential impact on marine ecology.

With plenty of space and wind on the island, CLP turned to renewable energy. But there are many challenges to building the solar station.

'Transporting construction materials to the island by ferry during high tide, rough seas and foggy weather pose a huge challenge,' Raymond Ho, CLP engineer, said.

'Also, the solar panels and wind turbines have to be specially designed to withstand seawater corrosion and temperature differences.'

CLP will collect solar radiation and wind data to help with academic and commercial research to futher develop such technology.

Apart from renewable energy, CLP has recruited staff volunteers to help rewire the island's old electrical installations to meet safety standards. The volunteers also teach inmates basic skills required to operate and repair the power system. When the inmates return to society, they can apply their knowledge to their jobs.

Operation Dawn currently provides a nine-month rehabilitation programme for drug users.