NSW shopping centre signs massive 10MW solar, 20MWh battery microgrid deal

On the NTC rooftop with Brad Page (General Manager, Dartwest Retail), Arnold Vitocco (Director, Dartwest Retail), Tony Perich (Director, Datwest Retail), Morris Iemma (Chair, CEP.Energy)

A major “sub-regional” shopping centre in Narellan, New South Wales, is set to install a massive solar and battery embedded network to offer its hundreds of retail tenants access to renewable electricity at a roughly 20% discount to grid power.

The network, which will be developed in stages to a total of 10MW of rooftop solar and 20MWh of battery energy storage capacity, is being developed through a partnership between specialist renewables fund CEP.Energy and the privately-owned Narellan Town Centre (NTC).

By One Step Off The Grid’s reckoning, this is the biggest single solar and battery system to be installed on any shopping centre in Australia, and there are many, many, shopping centres that are installing solar across the country.

The next in line, in terms of solar, might be the 5.8MW array installed at the Vicinity Centres-owned Elizabeth City Centre in Adelaide in 2018. Vicinity’s Castle Plaza Centre, meanwhile, might have the next biggest battery system, at 500kWh.

Under the CEP-NTC agreement, CEP.Energy will invest up to $40 million to install, own and operate the embedded solar and battery network at NTC, which is jointly owned by Dart West Retail Pty Ltd – a partnership between the Vitocco and Perich families.

Following a major expansion completed in 2017, NTC ranks as one of Australia’s largest privately owned shopping centres, with 76,000sqm of retail lifestyle and entertainment precincts containing over 220 speciality retail outlets, a cinema complex and 3,000 car spaces.

This is not a patch on the publicly listed Chadstone Shopping Centre in Melbourne, Victoria, which has 211,929m² of floor space, 550 stores over four levels, and more than 10,000 car spaces. But by contrast, the owners of the Melbourne retail behemoth, Vicinity Centres, recently committed to a much smaller solar system – a 1.6MW array to be installed as a solar carpark.

For NTC, CEP.Energy CEO Peter Wright said the 30-year lease agreement would provide the centre’s owners and tenants with a “total” renewable energy solution.

“Embedded renewable energy networks offer long term benefits to landlords, tenants, investors and the community,” Wright said in a statement on Thursday. “NTC’s retail customers can expect to save about 20 per cent  on their electricity bills.”

The agreement with NTC follows CEP.Energy’s foundation agreement with large-scale commercial and industrial property owner Pelligra to lease roof space and build and operate solar panels. In turn, CEP.Energy will offer tenants, predominantly small to medium businesses, solar energy at a reduced cost.

CEP’s secured property portfolio comprises several hundred properties, including former manufacturing sites in Geelong and Campbellfield in Melbourne’s north, and another outside of Adelaide. The overall portfolio includes existing buildings totalling more than 10 million square metres.

Wright said CEP.Energy aimed to have 1.5GW of solar and 1GW of battery energy storage providing a steady flow of low-cost energy for commercial, retail and industrial tenants across the country within five years.

CEP chair and former NSW Premier Morris Iemma said the company had identified Sydney’s south-west as a major business opportunity.

“There will be large-scale industrial and commercial development in this area as work continues on Sydney’s second airport,” he said.

“CEP has the capacity and business model to deliver large-scale renewable electricity supply to meet the growing demand for clean energy.”

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