One of Australia’s largest solar carports is being launched in Ipswich, Queensland, on Friday – a 100kW system that the installer says showcases the opportunities for Australian businesses to generate their own power and slash power bills by tens of thousands of dollars.
The solar array, installed on the ”shade cover” structure over carparking spaces at PA Central in Buranda, generates enough to power the shops and business in the Ipswich Road building, also running the car park operations, and will cut the energy costs for the owner by between 30 to 40 per cent.
Its launch, attended by Greens Senators Larissa Waters and Sarah Hanson-Young, billed the $150,000 system as Australia’s largest on a carpark, but at this stage, the solar carpark structure at the Sydney Markets in NSW holds that title, at 170kW, with a further 100kW about to be added.
According to Sam Kahlil, managing director of Shakra Energy which installed the system, nine out of 10 shopping centres already had car park shade structures that could support a solar array.
“Each system is different, but quintessentially the system – at PA Central – the solar system would probably cost around $150,000,” Khalil said, with federal government discounts. If the business needed to build the shade cloth structures suitable as well, that would cost a further $100,000.
“It makes sense for shopping centres to use all of that sunlight right outside their door, while providing shade for their customers’ cars,” Kahlil said in a statement on Friday.
And he believes other big energy users – like hospitals and big retailers – should also be tapping the potential solar energy from their rooftops and car parks.
“If we can save them 30 to 40 per cent on electricity bills that are $10 million, $20 million, $30 million a year, why wouldn’t you do it?” Khalil said in an interview with the Brisbane Times.
But one reason Australian businesses might not be snapping up commercial solar deals like this is that the current physical and regulatory set-up of the electricity grid doesn’t necessarily make it easy.
The PA Central solar system has also had to have $15,000 “grid protection relays” put in place to prevent solar energy being shared with other big users because of strict energy controls.
“What those grid protection relays do is stop any export on the line, because the Energex, the AGLs and big power networks in the world, they recognise that if commercial solar gets momentum, they are going to have a surplus of electricity on their lines,” Kahlil said.
“So can you imagine three or four 100 kilowatt systems sprawled over every manufacturer, abattoir and they are exporting that electricity.
“It is really going to disrupt the lines. They (governments and energy authorities) are going to have to do something about this, because it is mind-boggling.”
Certainly, in Queensland, network operators and regulators will need to work it out, as the state races to make up a 50 per cent renewable energy target, with very little commercial and large-scale solar or wind on the books.
“This is just the kind of innovation that our Sunshine State needs to shine as a leader in the clean energy future,” said Senator Waters at the launch.
“While coal is in structural decline, renewable energy is on the up and up, generating new jobs and offering trade opportunities.
“The Palaszczuk government needs to hurry up and implement the 50 per cent renewable energy target it promised in the election, instead of pushing ahead with coal exports through the Great Barrier Reef.”