Sydney factory to share excess rooftop solar power with employees

The 800kW rooftop PV system installed at Hunter Douglas’ Rydalmere factory

An 800kW solar system installed on the industrial rooftop of a window furnishing company in Sydney will soon supply power to that company’s employees, by offering the PV generated power that is unused by the Sydney factory on weekends to workers’ households.

The solar sharing scheme, which is believed to be an Australian first, is a collaboration between the Australian arm of international window furnishings supplier Hunter Douglas, energy traceability software company Enosi, and retailer Simply Energy.

It came about when Hunter Douglas, having installed the 800kW solar system on its Rydalmere factory roof in mid-2018, found it was exporting to the grid a great deal of solar energy on weekends and on weekdays in summer after 4pm, when the factory was closed.

So when an opportunity came up to access Enosi’s Powertracer solar sharing technology through a new retail supply contract with Simply Energy, the company signed up and went about working on a scheme that would extend its rooftop solar savings to its employees.

“The employee energy plan is a practical and future-proofing way to share the benefits of on-site commercial solar production with our employee community no matter how far flung they may be,” said Peter Hughes, the director of finance at Hunter Douglas Australia.

At the scheme’s heart is Enosi’s Powertracer platform, that essentially allows consumers to choose the provenance of their renewable electricity supply, by enabling the direct traceability of half-hourly energy settlements, including their source and settlement price.

The Australian technology, which was tested on a small scale in early 2019 through a partnership with NSW retailer Energy Locals, was last year scaled up under the guidance of an energy incubator program run by Energy Estate.

The arrangement with Hunter Douglas, which is in the very early stages, will offer staff members access to the company’s excess rooftop solar, as long as they have a smart meter and are willing to change retailers to Simply Energy.

“After that, after the metering has been sorted out… we begin matching how much of their energy is being supplied off their boss’s roof,” said Enosi CEO Steve Hoy in an interview with One Step Off The Grid.

“Every kilowatt-hour that is matched attracts a 5 cent discount and so Powertracer not only calculates the volume but also the discount, and we pass that back to Simply Energy’s building systems and it turns up as a line item on the customer’s bill that says ‘this is the renewable energy supplied from the boss’s roof and …the discount you get for that.”

For Hunter Douglas, the scheme means it can extend the value of its solar investment to employees and “create a kind of family vibe,” says Hoy, while still getting the same return for the power as the company would sending it to the grid.

Source: Hunter Douglas

For Hunter Douglas employees, it offers the option to choose clean energy without having to invest in or own their own rooftop solar asset, and to pay some of the lowest prices for electricity in the state.

For Enosi, however, the implications of the employee energy plan are far-reaching given the widespread use of commercial rooftops by business across Australia.

“Most of these businesses face the reality of high weekday load and a drop off on weekends and public holidays resulting in exporting excess clean energy to the grid,” the company says.

“By being able to accurately trace generated power, such businesses can now decide to whom this power is shared and energy retailers are given another channel for fruitfully engaging with customers who have a preference for renewable power at a lower cost.”

Hoy also sees it as a crucial part of the future energy market equation for major corporations that have pledged to source all of their electricity from renewables, and need to fill any supply-side gaps in their large-scale wind and solar power purchase agreements.

“We call it the shift from net-zero to true-zero, because we’re not netting anything off anymore, we’re not compensating, offsetting, we’re saying, truly buy renewable energy and match it in the hour that is produced.

“We’re seeing this worldwide trend just emerging, there’s really, really strong leadership coming from [big tech companies] like Google [that are pledging] worldwide, to match every kilowatt-hour that they’re consuming with the renewable sources that they’re procuring from.

“So, [Google] has been five years or so of doing 100% renewables but using certificates, offsets, and they recognise that doesn’t cut it. It doesn’t actually push the fossil fuels out of the market, it just kind of takes somebody else’s certificate, frankly.”

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