Australia’s largest tracker-equipped rooftop solar array goes online in Victoria

Steel products manufacturer Hilton Manufacturing has commissioned a one-of-a-kind project on the roof of its factory in Dandenong South, outside Melbourne, Victoria. The commercial-scale solar array is unique in Australia and possibly in the southern hemisphere as well for its use of solar tracking technology. The 98.6kW system will generate approximately 40% more solar power than a project of similar size with a fixed array. 

The project appears to be at least partially a public relations endeavour, bolstering the company’s environmental credibility as well as calling attention to its status as an ‘alive and well’ Australian manufacturer and innovator. Hilton hopes that ‘local businesses and educational facilities’ will visit their plant to see the array according to managing director Todd Hartley, quoted in the Dandenong Journal.

But the system will also save the company money on power bills, meeting about 25% of the plant’s electricity needs. The price of designing and installing the system was not disclosed, but the company received a $250,000 clean technology grant from the federal government through AusIndustry for the project–which, if equaling the total cost of the system, would work out to approximately $2.50 per watt.

The tracking and mounting technology, however, were not covered by the grant. Instead, Hilton took the initiative to improve the efficiency of the system by using its own resources to design the frames and tracking devices, which it has an eye to replicate and sell to other companies in the future. Likely for this reason, the addition of the plant’s new solar system has been about 2 years in the making, and the tracking array was designed and manufactured by Hilton themselves, while the system was programmed by ABB. Actual construction took around 6 months.

Just under 100kW, the system will be eligible to create small-scale technology certificates (STCs) and therefore a potential up-front discount on the cost of installing the system; any larger, and it would have been considered a large-scale generator and therefore instead eligible for large-scale generation certificates (LGCs). LGCs are created post-commissioning, as renewable energy systems generate electricity. They provide an ongoing benefit to system developers but no up-front benefit.

Hilton’s solar project is another example of how rooftop solar photovoltaic systems are gaining traction among businesses in Australia. The company is clearly aiming to go beyond simply taking advantage of the benefits of solar panels, however, by establishing itself as an innovator in the field.

Top image via Hilton Manufacturing.

© 2013 Solar Choice Pty Ltd 

James Martin II