By Dr Barry Hill, creator of SCU’s Sunflower solar rig and support of the ‘HiRay’ project at Vivid Sydney.

The HiRay project at Vivid has been a great project for the Sunflower and for the research team at Southern Cross University Contemporary music. I really couldn’t believe it when Alexie from Pollinate introduced me to the project and asked if the Sunflower could be part of it. Call it Synergy but I was hoping to connect with people doing exactly this sort of project and here they were. Setting up an amazing sculpture for Vivid that needed some solar power!

It is a project that relates strongly to the original goals of the Sunflower Project here at SCU to showcase how creative arts projects can help showcase the capabilities of renewable energy and educating people about the need to consider how we use energy and how we can use it better.

What do music and audio technology have to do with solar power?

Many people have asked why our Sunflower solar generator is a project developed by artists musicians and music techs and not engineers? What do music and audio technology have to do with solar power?

Well as a musician I have performed at many music festivals around Australia and overseas; sometimes in locations where there is no power available. The soundscape of festivals in these sometimes pristine natural landscapes is dominated by the sounds of diesel and petrol generators that distract from the music as well as polluting the environment and stopping you from getting any sleep!

We are now able to run music festival stages entirely from solar power.

As a researcher and University educator specializing in new technologies and new ways of making music. Research from similar projects around the world has shown that new audio technologies are very energy efficient and if we use LED lighting for festivals then we are able to run music festival stages entirely from solar power .

This coincides with developments in renewable energies that have made them more efficient and able to provide enough power to run a festival stage. We have tested our system for over 12 months now and its still in development but so far we have managed to provide solar powered stages to festivals such as the Bluesfest, Womex Brisbane and the Byron Bay Writers Festival.

The Sunflower generator.. a musical instrument?

Ray has meant that we can showcase how we are making the Sunflower generator highly interactive. It is a project that has allowed us to test a new data communication system that we have designed to allow solar generator data to be used in the creation of audio visual works. In a sense we are making the Sunflower generator into a musical instrument by using the data gathered from the power generation and discharge cycle to send data to the Hi Ray website and control aspects of the graphic design and audio soundscape.

Barry taking students through the inner workings of the rig

Barry taking students through the inner workings of the rig

Renewable energy is a great solution for marginalised communities all over the world.

Most importantly the Ray project is one that shows that renewable energy is a great solution for marginalised communities all over the world that have no access to any safe power source and this impacts on their ability to live, communicate and survive in the 21st Century.

The Sunflower project then is right behind Ray and everything that Pollinate does for poor communities in India. Its great to be a part of showcasing this great organisation’s work.

In the words of the great musicians James Rado and Barry White – Let the Sunshine In and Let the Music Play!