Colonial backs massive solar and battery storage roll-out in major shopping centres

Listed commercial property landlord, Charter Hall, has unveiled plans to roll out up to 9MW of solar and 12MWh of battery storage across 15 of its major shopping centres, in a program backed by one of Australia’s leading wealth management funds.

The ambitious commercial solar and storage program will be carried out in partnership with CleanPeak Energy, which will source, develop and operate the projects – although a small number will go through a separate contract with Solgen Energy, backed by Macquarie.

In turn, CleanPeak – a key player in last year’s installation of a massive 3.5MW of rooftop solar at the processing plant of Primo Smallgoods in the Brisbane – will launch into the Charter Hall program backed by the financial clout of Colonial First State Global Asset Management.

The AFR reported on Thursday that CFSGAM had invested $100 million in the commercial rooftop solar and battery system venture alongside CleanPeak, to accelerate its expansion in the booming commercial solar sector.

The Financial Review said CleanPeak’s existing solar projects for Charter Hall Retail REIT and meat processor JBS had been brought into the new CPE Renewable Investment Trust, which would be 75-80 per cent owned by CFSGAM.

CleanPeak co-founder Philip Graham, a former investment banker, told the paper the trust would over time deploy some $250 million into solar and battery storage projects, with the equity from CFSGAM supplemented by debt.

“Our focus now is to build a world-class portfolio of C&I assets so that we can deliver adequate returns for our investor base,” he said.

Graham said he expected the 15MW of projects now included in the trust would grow to 40-50MW by the end of the year, and – with a target averaging $1.50 per installed watt of capacity – the $250 million total should support about 170MW of projects.

For Charter Hall, the first installation kicks off this week at the Tamworth Square shopping centre in Tamworth, NSW, where 800 panels are expected to be installed by the end of next month.

By the end of September, Charter Hall expects to have close to 13MW of generation as 12MWh of storage is installed at 15 sites.

Charter Hall’s chief of retail, Greg Chubb, said they had decided to partner with “leading solar industry experts” on the energy plan, consider it was not the REIT’s own area of expertise.

“Solar is certainly not a core capability for us, so we thought it most prudent for our investors and our properties.

“This is an initial portfolio and we have aspirations once we land this initial portfolio to do more.”

Chubb said the inclusion of battery storage – using technology from US firm Powin Energy –would make the most of the solar generated on site, and further reduce the cost of electricity supply.

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