Another week, another Australian manufacturer going solar. But in the case of Sydney outfit Impact International, it is a commercial solar array with a slight difference.
Impact International, a leading manufacturer of squeeze tubes for food and pharmaceutical industries, officially launched its 290kW solar system at its Smithfield, Sydney, facility on Friday.
But instead of the usual rooftop array, or ground mounted system, the company has opted to install just under half of its solar generating capacity using the pre-fabricated portable technology of Sydney-based start-up 5B.
Pictured above, the 120kW solar array – which was assembled in Alexandria in Sydney – covers more than 800 square metres at the site and sits flush on the ground of a paddock next to the Impact factory. The other 170kw is installed in the more standard fashion, on the factory’s roof.
As we reported on One Step, 5B unveiled its pre-fab portable solar technology less than a year ago in July 2017, with the nation’s booming commercial solar sector firmly in its sights.
The 100 per cent mobile and fast to install solar solution, which comes in 12kW blocks dubbed Maverick, has been engineered to be shipped to a project site ready made, and then packed up and moved when no longer needed.
As 5B said at the time, this could conceivably mean that a 1MW ~$1 million capital project could be built by a team of six in just five-days. The systems are also made to be battery storage ready.
This sort of portable solar technology – also being offered by the ARENA-backed ECLIPS Engineering – is expected to have big appeal for businesses crunching numbers on construction and labour costs, or for sites that might only need solar power for a five to 10-year project.
But why install it at a factory in Sydney?
Because, says installer, Smart Commercial Solar, it was the most economically efficient way to meet the Impact International’s needs.
“We looked at all the options, looked at their bills, established the system size they needed, and then we looked at the roof,” said Smart Commercial Solar’s Max Stenning.
It was at that point that the team encountered a problem that is by no means uncommon – not all of the roof space that the installers wanted to use, could be used.
“We needed space to install another 120kW,” Stenning told One Step – and so their attention then turned to an empty piece of land right next to the site.
But instead of installing a more conventional ground-mounted system, the team settled on 5B’s technology – because it made the most commercial sense.
“We’re technology agnostic,” Stenning said. “We don’t necessarily have any preference for the sort of system we install, as long as it is the best fit for the customer.
“In this case the 5B system was the best fit.”
Another major bonus is that the portable solar system is so quick to install.
“It took two days to install the system, whereas a standard ground mount would take six weeks plus,” Stenning said.
That’s largely because 5B’s 12kW solar blocks are pre-fabricated, and – with the ballast mounted on the ground – don’t require major geo-technical works to be done before installation. Although Stenning says they did have to have flood zone tests and reports done, for the ground level system.
In all other ways, however, the 5B PV modules will work like any others, and are expected to continue to do so – whether relocated or not – for the standard solar project lifetime of around 25 years.
And for Impact, they offer the added benefit of being able to show customers that it is a sustainable manufacturer, by letting them “walk among the system”.
“So that was half the reason (Impact) did the system,” Stenning said. “They can take photos with the system and post them on social media, for their customers to see that they are buying a sustainably manufactured product,” he added.
“Our customers choose Impact because of our quality, product knowledge, service and the superior barrier properties of our tubes. In other words, they care greatly about the quality of the tubes they use,” said Impact managing director Aleks Lajovic in comments on Friday.
“By extension the energy that is used to produce these tubes really matters. We want to add to our customers’ story of quality and care — our groundbreaking solar farm does exactly that,” he said.
The other half of the reason for the solar system, of course, was the major savings on electricity costs.
The combined 290kW is expected to supply 100 per cent of the manufacturing site’s energy needs at times when the sun is shining, and generate 395MWh of electricity per year. And it offers the potential to add battery storage at a later date, when that option makes better financial sense for the company.
“Our technology makes it easier and more affordable than ever for industrial users to include solar in their energy mix,” said 5B CEO Chris McGrath in comments at the system’s launch on Friday.
“Coupled with increasingly affordable energy storage, it will help remove some pressure from a business’ bottom line.”