Australian retailing giant Woolworths is quietly building up one of the biggest aggregate rooftop solar arrays in the country, with more than 1.2MW so far installed on 27 of its retail sites.
The increased investment in rooftop solar has been noted by market analysts in recent months, notably with trade in renewable energy certificates held by the company.
Woolworths installed its first rooftop solar arrays of 30kW each on two petrol retail outlets way back in 2010. It falls well short, though, of the 320MW it mooted could be possible at that time.
Its largest installation to date has been on the roof of a supermarket in Coolalinga, in the Northern Territory, which has a 300kW array that generates around 500MWh a year, or about 18 per cent of the store’s electricity use.
That project was completed earlier this year.
Woolworths is not making a big deal out of its solar intallations. A spokesman said that the company’s focus is on” reducing carbon emissions through a mix of technology and other elements that provide the best return on investment.”
“Woolworths has a well established commitment to energy efficiency, low carbon technology and renewables,” the spokesman said.
Since 2009, we have invested approximately $112 million in energy efficiency and saved an estimated $162 million in operational costs.
He said that in the last fiscal year, energy efficient and low carbon technology delivered an 18.7 per cent reduction in our carbon emissions, compared to original projected growth levels for 2014.
“In addition, where feasible we have invested in renewables and to date 27 of our retail sites nationally have solar panels installed with a total of 1.2 MW generation capacity and an annual yield of about 2000MWh.”
That is one of the biggest solar portfolios in the country, but it does trail other retailers and property groups.
IKEA has installed more than 4MW of rooftop solar as part of its goal to become 100 per cent renewables by 2020, GPT is installing a 1.25MW plant at another Darwin shopping centre to take its total to 2MW by the end of the year, and Stockland recently installed a 1.22MW solar system at its Shellharbour shopping centre.
In a submission to the Victorian government going back to 2010, Woolworths suggested that it had more than 3.2 million square metres of roof space across the country, which it said could accommodate total capacity of 320MW.
“Woolworths has already constructed distribution centres at Laverton (VIC) and Erskine Park (NSW) with reinforced roof structures and invertor rooms that can accommodate a solar PV array of 1 MW installed generation capacity,” it said at the time.
Those arrays failed to eventuate, at least at the size nominated.