McCain completes first phase of 8.2MW renewables plant in Victoria

Source: Trina Solar

McCain Foods Australia has completed the first phase of its plans to install an 8.2MW behind the meter renewable energy system, cutting the ribbon this week on the first 4.5MW of what will be a 7MW solar array to power its Ballarat processing facility in Victoria.

Plans for the solar project were unveiled by the Australian arm of the international food giant mid-way through 2020, as part of a hyrbid system that would also include a 1.2MW waste-to-energy co-generation plant, a solar car park, and three electric vehicle chargers.

The renewable energy system, which is being designed and installed by Smart Commercial Solar, is expected to slash the grid electricity consumption of McCain Australia’s Ballarat facility by just under 40%.

Significantly, the solar component of the project is the first in Australia to use Trina Solar’s fully integrated module and tracking TrinaPro offering, under the company’s now fully-owned Trina Tracker business.

Trina launched its Trina Tracker platform in Australia just last week, roughly two years after becoming the first Chinese solar major to take a stake in a European solar tracking company – in this case, Spanish outfit Nclave. Trina then took full ownership of Nclave in September of last year, and now offers a fully integrated solar module and tracking system, or even tracking alone, to pair with compatible modules from other manufacturers.

Trina is largely targeting Australia’s large-scale solar market with its Tracker offering – and in particular with its integrated one-stop smart PV TrinaPro solution – but the company’s head of utility solutions in Asia Pacific, Andrew Gilhooly, said the McCain project showed that it had strong appeal for commercial and industrial-scale projects, too.

Part of that appeal is the streamlining of the contracting process – and the single point of accountability – as well as the savings that can be delivered on transport and installation costs, which – as Gilhooly points out – is especially pronounced in markets with a high cost of labor like Australia.

“[McCain] provided really good feedback where… they wanted to partner with Trina because of the inherently lower risk profile of the combined module and tracker package and the assurance of partnering with a large bankable entity,” Gilhooly told One Step on Tuesday.

“They’re not a developer, right? They’re the long-term operator and off-taker of the system. So for them, you know, the risk profile of partnering with a company like Trina was inherently lower than other disaggregated module models where, you know, the modules come from one company and the tracker from another.

“We’ve had to be pretty innovative and agile to overcome the challenges from the pandemic,” Gilhoolhy added. “But, you know, we we’ve had exemplary feedback from from our customer McCain in how we navigated those challenges.”

The solar component of the McCain hybrid system is being financed through a partnership with Smart Commercial Solar under a power purchase agreement (PPA) funded by renewable investment fund, Solar Bay.

As One Step reported at the time, Solar Bay and Smart Commercial Solar last year both established solar buy-back schemes that aimed to give companies struggling through the Covid-19 crisis an opportunity to use their rooftop solar system to unlock cash flow, get a short breather from paying bills, and then continued access to discounted power.

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