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 1605

"We visit Barcelona, one of the smartest cities in the world, to find out what makes it so special. What does it look like and what is the future?"

E&T jobs

  • Senior Development Engineer, Electronics

    Premium job

    Helmet Integrated Systems / Gentex Corporation
    • Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire
    • Competitive

    We are an innovative, robust and fast growing business, whose main focus is to deliver continues improvement to existing products and offer new sol..

    • Recruiter: Helmet Integrated Systems / Gentex Corporation

    Apply for this job

  • Smart Grid Research Engineer

    Premium job

    University of Strathclyde
    • Cumbernauld, Glasgow
    • Grade: 6/7* £26,537 - £37,768*

    Work as part of a growing dynamic team on a wide range of technical projects with particular emphasis on experimental validation and testing

    • Recruiter: University of Strathclyde

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Asset Specialist

    Affinity Water
    • Hatfield, Hertfordshire

    Responsible for updating and writing electrical engineering standards, approved codes of practice and safe systems of work

    • Recruiter: Affinity Water

    Apply for this job

  • Senior Electronics Engineer

    York Instruments
    • York, North Yorkshire

    Senior electronics engineer to work as part of a team developing an MEG imaging system; working with the engineering team and external contractors.

    • Recruiter: York Instruments

    Apply for this job

  • Manufacturing Engineer - Circuit Card Assembly

    MBDA
    • Lostock Junction
    • Competitive Salary & Benefits

    What’s the opportunity?   Manufacturing UK is an integral part of the Operations Directorate whose principal mission is to ensure that MBDA’s deliverable commitments are met...

    • Recruiter: MBDA

    Apply for this job

  • High Voltage Engineer

    Premium job

    Essex X-Ray & Medical Equipment
    • Great Dunmow, Essex

    This High Voltage Engineer will provide design leadership for high voltage cable assemblies up to one megavolt.

    • Recruiter: Essex X-Ray & Medical Equipment

    Apply for this job

  • Team Leader - Flank Arrays

    BAE Systems
    • Barrow-In-Furness, Cumbria, England
    • Negotiable

    Team Leader - Flank Arrays Would you like to work in a unique role within the construction of the Astute Class submarines? We currently have a vacancy for a Team Leader - Flank Arrays at our site in Barrow-in-Furness. As a Team Leader - Flank Arrays, you

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Electronics and Software Engineer

    Copley Scientific Ltd
    • Nottingham
    • circa £35,000 per annum + bonus

    Develop new test equipment for the pharmaceutical industry. Good opportunities to grow and develop. Successful family-owned and managed business.

    • Recruiter: Copley Scientific Ltd

    Apply for this job

  • Bridge Test Facility Manager

    BAE Systems
    • Shropshire, Telford, England
    • Negotiable

    Bridge Test Facility ManagerWe currently have a vacancy for a Bridge Test Facility Manager at our site in Telford with our Land UK business.As the Bridge Test Facility Manager, you will be part of our Test & Trials team, working closely with the Mili

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Intelligent Transport Systems Engineer - Highways Technology

    Premium job

    Mott MacDonald
    • Birmingham, West Midlands

    Our transport technology team in Birmingham is currently growing a highly skilled and customer-focused team to...

    • Recruiter: Mott MacDonald

    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