Australia’s largest interconnected rooftop solar system – and quite probably the largest in the world, to date – is set to be developed in south-western Sydney as part of an embedded network combining 60MW of solar and 150MWh of battery storage that will help power a 100% renewable industrial and warehousing site.
Asia-Pacific logistics outfit Logos announced on Tuesday it had signed up to a 30-year partnership with renewable energy fund, Solar Bay, to install and operate the massive solar and battery system to provide network and retail energy services to tenants of the Moorebank Logistics Park (MLP).
MLP – itself described as Australia’s largest logistics warehousing infrastructure project, with a combined 800,000 square metres of roof space – was bought up last year by Logos and a consortium of partners including AustralianSuper, Ivanhoé Cambridge, TCorp (NSW Treasury Corporation) and AXA IM Alts, for $1.67 billion.
MLP aims to provide critical infrastructure to shore up some of Australia’s biggest retailers against future supply-chain nightmares as have plagued them over the past few years, due to Covid-19, floods and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
But crucially – as head of Logos Australia and New Zealand, Darren Searle points out – it also offers a substantial opportunity to the tenants where they seek to run their business operations on a carbon-neutral mandate.
One such tenant, Woolworths, has been working since last year on $1.2 billion plans for a 34,600 square metre automated regional distribution centre and a 44,900 square metre semi-automated national distribution centre at the industrial hub.
According to the deal with Solar Bay, the solar and battery microgrid aims to supply the full energy requirement of the precinct during daylight hours – or 44% of the total site electrical requirement – with remaining power required coming from an unspecified off-site wind farm.
Future stages of the microgrid – the site reportedly has the space to accommodate up to 130MW of rooftop solar and generate 183GWh of electricity per annum – aim to take in solar powered electric truck fast charging, thermal storage, hydrogen generation and supply, and “related low emission infrastructure.”
Logos says the estimated end value of MLP will be $4.2 billion, once the site is fully developed and will be Australia’s largest fully automated port-to-site rail link and world-leading industrial site, facilitating logistics and warehousing for some of Australia’s leading customers.
“The Logos Consortium will develop and fund the construction of the embedded network, with our long-term partnership with Solar Bay delivering the ongoing operation of this network,” said Searle in a statement.
“This maximises outcomes for all involved – from Solar Bay as the operator, to Logos as the investment and development manager, to our tenants, with the economies of scale at MLP offering a distinct, market-leading advantage with the amount of renewable energy provided through a microgrid.”
Searle says the impact of the solar and battery microgrid at MLP will extend far beyond the site itself and play a key role in the state, regional and local economies given its size, scale and influence.
“We are proud to make such a significant announcement in Australia’s renewable energy sector today, which will reap environmental benefits and innovation for a long time to come,” a statement from the Logos Consortium said.
“We are committed to developing MLP with leading sustainability practices and outcomes at the fore, and our partnership with Solar Bay will … utilise the latest technologies so that we can produce, store, manage, and use energy more efficiently on-site at MLP and run all warehouse operations on 100% renewable energy.”
Solar Bay’s investment director, James Doyle, says the renewable power supply plans for MLP offer a prime example of the convergence between property and energy infrastructure happening across Australia.
“A precinct-wide microgrid facilitates the on-site installation of utility scale solar and batteries, providing tenants with the ability to access a vast amount of renewable electricity that match the scale of their electrified operations,” Doyle said.
“With over 800,000sqm of rooftop solar possible we can also assist in the decarbonisation of transport and utilise surplus generation to produce low emission fuels such as Hydrogen.
“The rollout of the renewable infrastructure at MLP … [sets] a strong precedent for what’s possible at industrial precincts moving forward,” Doyle said.
In some detail on the design and function of the precinct-wide microgrid, the companies say the rooftop solar and battery system will connect into the high voltage network at multiple points, with complementary technology like megawatt-scale electric vehicle/truck fast chargers also able to be integrated throughout the precinct.
The companies say the site will also interact with the National Energy Market, with a number of the significant loads at MLP able to be “flexed” in real time.
“This will … optimise the consumption of on-site generation and provide services back to the NEM when required, via demand response and the ancillary market,” a statement says.
“The combination of this infrastructure allows Solar Bay to offer tenants long term electricity supply agreements such as the Qube IMEX and Interstate rail operations which have a 20-year agreement in place.
“The solar panels will also provide clean energy for the warehouse and container terminal operations, which will further reduce freight transport emissions into the future by promoting rail over road transport.”
Footnote: Claims of “Australia’s biggest” and the “world’s biggest” are often thrown about in the renewables industry, and with the rate of development here and around the globe, they’re getting harder and harder to verify or debunk.
That said, 60MW of solar panels spread across the rooftops of one industrial precinct is far and away the biggest example we have been able to find, here or globally, with most of the current projects claiming the title hovering between 11MW and 15MW in capacity.
For context, 60MW is the equivalent to a decent-sized utility-scale solar farm, such as Alinta’s Chichester Hub Solar Farm in Western Australia’s Pilbara region, a section of which is pictured above.