Signs are emerging that the Australian commercial solar market is finally taking off, with increasing numbers of businesses and councils signing up for rooftop PV; not least among them IKEA, which this week revealed plans to roll out the nation’s largest commercial solar development so far.
The Swedish furniture giant announced on Tuesday it was in the process of installing a total amount of 3.9MW of rooftop PV – more than 16,000 panels – on its five stores in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales, as well as at two warehouse locations.
The huge commercial project, which kicked off at IKEA’s Queensland Logan store (741kW), will wind up at the Melbourne Springvale store (950kW) later this year, under the management of Canadian Solar and a prominent Australian solar installation company*.
Once complete, IKEA says the solar systems will have a combined annual output of 5,495 million kilowatt hours (MWh) of electricity – enough to power 778 family homes for a year.
On a slightly smaller scale, Australian health supplement and cosmetics maker Homart Pharmaceuticals has installed a PV system at its Rydalmere, NSW, manufacturing facility – a move that is expected to save the company up to $23,000 a year.
The 100kW solar system was uses SolarMax grid connected inverters and remote monitoring platform, which provides real-time data on input and output voltages, input and output currents, frequency, device temperature and yield.
The solar system will generate around 140MWh of solar power annually, reducing the company’s reliance on the grid – as well as its power bills, which had tripled following the opening the bigger Rydalmere factory in October 2012.
Homart says the PV array will cut its carbon emissions by 144.2 tonnes a year and deliver an internal rate of return (IRR) of 26 per cent per annum.
Homart managing director Jeffrey Yeh says the PV system has already reduced the company’s electricity bills by up to 25 per cent a month, after only two months’ in operation.
For IKEA, which in 2012 committed to becoming 100 per cent renewable by 2020, the Australian solar investment not only makes economic sense, but it part of the retailer’s broader plan to minimise environmental impact and gain energy independence.
As of 2013, the company had installed 550,000 solar panels on its 300-plus buildings worldwide, and was the No. 2 private commercial owner/user of solar power in the US.
Nevertheless, the IKEA news is a quite big deal for Australia’s commercial solar sector, which has so far failed to thrive, stifled by a federal and state policy dog’s breakfast that has created unnecessary complexity and distorted the market. According to talk at last week’s Australian Solar Conference, further such deals are in the pipeline.
Meanwhile, local councils are among those seeing the benefits of solar, installing PV on the rooftops of council-owned buildings in a bid to cut exposure to rising power prices.
Recent examples include NSW Hornsby Shire, which last week issued tenders to expand the existing PV system on Hornsby Library from 20kW to 100kW and to install a “suitably sized” PV system at Epping Library.
Last year, the Camden Council, also in New South Wales, installed a 97kW solar PV system on the roof of its Narellan library, comprised of 70 Trina 250W solar modules. The system is expected to generate over 120,000kWh a year, making a significant contribution to the reducing the CO2 emissions as well as the running costs of the library.
The developments back recent statements by industry analysts Bloomberg New Energy Finance and others, that rooftop solar – both residential and commercial – is now an unstoppable force in the Australian market, that could see around 23GW of solar PV installed by 2030.
[*Installer name removed by editor in keeping with Solar Choice’s impartiality policy.]
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