vol 8, issue 4

Photo Essay: Alcatraz

15 April 2013
By Mark Venables
Share |
Aerial view of Alcatraz

1. Today, Alcatraz is home to 1,300 solar panels

PV array on the roof of the main cell house, Alcatraz

2. On the roof of the main cell house

Burt Lancaster playing Robert Stroud (inset) in the film Birdman of Alcatraz

3. ‘Birdman of Alcatraz’, seeing Burt Lancaster as Robert Stroud (inset) playing the ‘Birdman’

Prisoners being transferred from Alcatraz

4. When the prison closed in March of 1963 its incumbents were transferred to other Federal prisons

Main power conduits running from roof array to inverter room

5. The PV array is connected to two 2,000-amp-hour battery strings and an inverter plant

Partial view of the battery room

6. Even in the winter months the battery array typically provides island power for about two-thirds of the night

View to the north from Alcatraz lighthouse

7. An unexpected challenge was that birds were attracted to the panels and their droppings became a serious issue

The Rock, once home to notorious criminals, now hosts 1,300 solar panels to provide the tiny island with power.

Once the home of such criminal luminaries as Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly, the craggy island one and a half miles off the coast of San Francisco has been a fort, a federal prison and latterly a tourist attraction. Alcatraz, or ‘The Rock’ to give it its common moniker, was closed as a prison 50 years ago.

1. Long gone are the notorious inmates. Today, Alcatraz is home to 1,300 solar panels in place of the diesel generators that powered the island for over 75 years. Although the building is highly visible, the photovoltaic (PV) array installation is only visible from the air.

2. On the roof of the main cell house, a 307kW PV array capable of producing 400,000kWh of electricity each year reduces the carbon dioxide emissions by around 337,000kg a year. The roofing needed replacing prior to installation because the old one contained layers of asbestos felts.

3. There have been numerous silver screen adaptations of events on the island, one of the most popular, ‘Birdman of Alcatraz’, seeing Burt Lancaster as Robert Stroud, the ‘Birdman’. Stroud (inset) spent 53 of his 72 years behind prison bars. He was permitted to keep birds in his cell and maintain a laboratory. From studies conducted in his cell, he produced ‘Stroud’s Digest of Diseases of Birds’, considered by many ornithologists to be a definitive work on bird sicknesses.

4. When the prison closed in March of 1963 its incumbents were transferred to other Federal prisons.

5. The PV array is connected to two 2,000-amp-hour battery strings and an inverter plant, and more efficient diesel generators were installed. The generators provide power when PV or battery sources are insufficient. Under optimal conditions, generator use has been reduced by more than 90 per cent.

6. Even in the winter months the battery array typically provides island power for about two-thirds of the night. Once the batteries have reached a set point of state of discharge, the generator kicks on to recharge them.

7. Another challenge was the requirement to arrange the PV array around the historic architectural and mechanical features of the roof. This includes skylights and large roof-mounted pipes.  An unexpected challenge was that birds were attracted to the warmth of the panels and their droppings became a serious issue in the late summer when rain is less frequent and birds are more abundant. The project provided a way of washing down the panels but the frequency at which wash downs were needed significantly exceeded expectations.

Share |
Related forum discussions
forum comment To start a discussion topic about this article, please log in or register.    

Latest Issue

E&T cover image 1607

"As the dust settles after the referendum result, we consider what happens next. We also look forward to an international summer of sport."

E&T jobs

  • Electrician

    The Bristol Port Company
    • City of Bristol
    • C. £31,729 per annum plus supplements, benefits and overtime

    You’re a good team worker with a strong technical capacity – so bring your talents to a new role with one of the area’s leading employers.

    • Recruiter: The Bristol Port Company

    Apply for this job

  • Supply Restoration Team Manager (HV/SAP)

    SSE
    • Oxford, Oxfordshire
    • Salary: £37,588 to £49,645 + Car (SSE8) Depending on skills and experience

    SSE is looking to recruit a Supply Restoration Team Manager to join our existing team in Oxford.

    • Recruiter: SSE

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Technical Lead - Global Operations, Engineering & Laboratory

    Pfizer Ltd
    • Kent

    An exciting opportunity has arisen to join a dynamic team of professional engineers, supporting the development of novel drugs.

    • Recruiter: Pfizer Ltd

    Apply for this job

  • Supply Restoration Team Manager (HV/SAP)

    SSE
    • Oxfordshire
    • Salary: £37,588 to £49,645 + Car (SSE8) Depending on skills and experience

    SSE is looking to recruit a Supply Restoration Team Manager into our office in Oxford.

    • Recruiter: SSE

    Apply for this job

  • Electronics & Control Systems Engineer

    Frazer-Nash Consultancy Ltd
    • Bristol, Burton, Glasgow, Plymouth, Warrington
    • £ Competitive + Benefits

    We are seeking talented Electronics Engineers at all career levels.

    • Recruiter: Frazer-Nash Consultancy Ltd

    Apply for this job

  • Control and Instrumentation Engineers

    Frazer-Nash Consultancy Ltd
    • Bristol, Burton, Glasgow, Gloucester
    • £ Competitive + Benefits

    Frazer-Nash is currently embarking on a period of significant growth of our electrical, electronics, control and instrumentation capability.

    • Recruiter: Frazer-Nash Consultancy Ltd

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Engineer

    Gridpower Ltd
    • Newcastle Upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear

    Co-ordination of all project design deliverables and the leadership of a project team to deliver overall project[s] Right First Time

    • Recruiter: Gridpower Ltd

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Technician

    National Grid
    • England, Lancashire
    • £29000 - £34000 per year

    Electrical Technician - Gas Transmission - Ref. 11206Salary: £29k - £34k, call-out and standby allowance plus job requirement vehicleLocation: Nether Kellet Compressor Station (LA6 1HD), Lancashire National Grid plc is the operator of the GB gas transmiss

    • Recruiter: National Grid

    Apply for this job

  • Engineering Officer

    Royal Air Force
    • Nationwide
    • £30k pay after initial training + £10k Golden Hello

    Responsible for the optimum performance of all RAF technology, and specialise in either Aerosystems or Communications Electronics.

    • Recruiter: Royal Air Force

    Apply for this job

  • Senior Systems Engineer

    Strainstall Marine
    • Cowes, Isle of Wight
    • Competitive + Benefits

    Oversee all aspects of electronic & systems engineering, manufacturing, test engineering and hardware support activities

    • Recruiter: Strainstall Marine

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶

Subscribe

Choose the way you would like to access the latest news and developments in your field.

Subscribe to E&T