By CASEY NEILL
HILTON Manufacturing’s solar farm is the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere.
Each of the 340 panels installed on the Dandenong South factory’s roof will follow the sun to soak up as much energy as possible.
Managing director Todd Hartley switched the system on for the first time last Friday 4 October.
“Over the past week we thought we may have made a huge mistake, with all the wind and rain,” he said.
“We were starting to think a wind farm may have been more productive.
“I believe Jacques (Esper) our project manager even went to bed with his lap top on Monday night to watch the rooftop live feed in case any panels blew off in the 130km/h an hour winds.
“The journey has begun.”
The panels will generate 98.6 kW of power per hour – 40 times greater than the average single residential solar installation.
“To our knowledge there is nothing of this scale in the southern hemisphere,” Mr Hartley said.
“This is a great news story not only for Hilton but for the region.
“We want to encourage other local businesses and educational facilities to visit our site and learn more about environmental sustainability.
“We hope the work we have done with our factory will inspire the community around us to grasp a greener future.”
A rooftop viewing platform will serve as a showpiece for factory visitors and give easy access for maintenance.
Terry Bremner from power and automation technologies company ABB said the installation was “globally unique”.
“There is nothing like this in the world,” he said.
“All I can say is wow. Six months ago this was just a factory roof.”
The former Federal Government provided a $250,000 grant for the project.
“Over time it makes you money,” Isaacs MP Mark Dreyfus said.
“Other companies can come and see it in operation.
“Seeing is believing.”
Hilton started 37 years ago in a 200 square metre tin shed in Hilton Street, Dandenong.
“We currently employ 230 staff, at last count consisting of 25 different nationalities,” Mr Hartley said.
“We are a preferred supplier to the defence, truck, leisure, health care, bus, traffic management and rail industries.
“We produced just shy of 1.6 million parts last calendar year.
“We are one of the country’s largest sub-contract sheet metal manufacturers.”
Mr Hartley described the business as dynamic, diversified and progressive.
“Manufacturing is alive and well,” he said.