In just one week’s time a small-town IGA near the border of NSW and Victoria will turn on a 169kW solar system. But instead of it going on their roof, these panels are going into the carpark.
This 54-car space project in Baranduda is part of something much bigger, as supermarkets start to try and minimise their whopping electricity use.
“Woolworths for example consumes 1% of Australia’s electricity,” Will Beaumont, founder and CEO of Canyon Solar told RenewEconomy.
“And you can usually fit twice as much solar in the car park than you can on the roof. They can make a massive difference to getting the supermarkets closer to the net zero targets.”
Along with Canyon Solar, the project included Lotus Energy and Johns Lyng Energy Services.
The solar canopies fulfill two purposes – they’re able to shade cars in the same way as a shade cloth or other canopy would, but it also provides significantly more renewable energy for the retailer during the day when most electricity is used.
“Because a supermarket uses so much power, basically every kilowatt of power that’s produced is consumed by the supermarket,” Beaumont told RenewEconomy.
“You’re never really exporting to the grid.”
The other benefit of carpark solar is that it makes it much easier to install EV chargers, with the location at the Baranduda IGA having four car spaces for destination charging.
“Once you have the structure in, you’ve obviously got power going from carparks to the main switchboard,” Beaumont told RenewEconomy.
“The marginal cost of adding in electric vehicle chargers is really low.”
Solar canopies – like the one being installed in the Baranduda IGA – aren’t new.
A massive 5.8 MW solar system has been installed in the Elizabeth City Centre, while the Castle Plaza shopping centre has installed 2.2 MW of carpark solar. Both projects are in Adelaide and have been run by retail asset manager Vicinity Centres.
The French government has even recently mandated a solar panel canopy to be installed in all parking lots with 80 spaces or more.
However, Beaumont’s company Canyon Solar is trying to make it cheaper and easier to install solar canopies by creating a modular system and doing the bulk of the work off site.
“The problem is 40% of the turnkey cost is just labour,” he told RenewEconomy.
“So, by doing stuff on the production line where it’s more efficient, and factory labour is usually around half the price of onsite labour, you can provide a lower cost system.”
Each modular section – or pod – can cover about three car spaces and when onsite, the team just needs to erect columns, and put the solar array on top.
Many shopping centres “have already filled their roof with solar, and they’re looking for other avenues to increase their installed solar capacity,” says Beaumont.
“Carparks are an emerging location for solar, but it’s a really good location because a lot of retail outlets already put in undercover parking.”