Australian-designed ‘Solpod’ creating a buzz in the Commercial solar market

An Australian solar start-up company is looking to shake up the commercial solar market in Australia with its pre-fabricated rooftop solar systems.

Melbourne based Solpod has developed a way to fix solar panels to industrial roofing using a relocatable aluminium racking and mounting system, offering the ability to remove the panels to be deployed elsewhere, at any time.

Solpod’s unique solution focuses on:

  1. Relocatable solar. Solar PV ‘pods’ that can be detached from the roof, folded up and lifted via a crane to a truck for installation on another site. This enables commercial property owners to invest in a 20-year asset (solar systems) while mitigating the risk of 5-year commercial leases.
  2. Non-penetrating solar. Solar PV ‘pods’ are fixed to the roof using industrial grade tape. The roof sheet is not penetrated and no holes are left behind if the solar PV system is relocated.
  3. Minimal wind loads. Solar PV ‘pods’ present a streamlined profile to the wind, reducing the forces that are transmitted to the building.

One of the key features of the design is that it offers the ability to remove the panels to be deployed elsewhere, at any time. This is something that would of caused lots of customers hesitation in the past due to may different reasons, such as leasing uncertainty, long term planning, etc.

Solpod CEO James Larratt – whose solar industry pedigree includes a stint at SunEdison, during which time he helped to establish the commercial PV business at Australia-based Energy Matters – says the solar pods aim to plug a major gap in the C&I market.

The technology gels particularly well with one of Larratt’s main areas of expertise and interest in large-scale solar: behind-the-meter commercial solar PPA and lease arrangements.

“Solar is cheaper than the grid, but it’s not cheaper if you have to scrap it after five years, or 10 years,” Larratt said.

“A lot of industrial roofs are rented, so it’s very hard for the tenants to make a long-term commitment to solar.

“SolPod is a prefabricated rooftop solar solution. So we assemble it in a warehouse under strict quality control, bring it on a truck, crane it on the roof, and we’ve installed the panels in a day of work on-site.”

The company, in partnership with business electricity retailer ERM Power, is currently in the process of installing 2.5MW worth of its portable PV technology at 25 commercial sites across Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

ARENA has committed $975,000 towards that $5 million pilot project, which will trial using the solar pods at shopping centres, commercial and government buildings.