Tasmania’s largest commercial solar array has been installed in Launceston, with the completion last week of a 1MW system on the old wool store and surrounding buildings in Merino Street, Kings Meadows.
The massive 4000-plus panel array was installed by energy efficiency specialist Nest Energy as part of its Nest One program, in which it leases the roof of the commercial building and signs its tenants up to a power deal that is 10-15 per cent cheaper than buying electricity from the grid.
As Nest Energy general manager Mark Barnett told One Step Off The Grid this week, it’s a concept that’s not hard very sell, particularly as the costs of grid-supplied power continue to rise.
“You have a thumping great big saw tooth roof; we leased that from the landlord, and 11 tenancies sign up to a deal with us to buy power that’s cheaper than they’re currently paying.
“They get immediate benefit of lower electricity bills, while the landlord gets a new source of income from the roof lease, and he gets a selling point to future new tenants of lower power bills.”
Nest, which privately funded the $2 million Merino Street Solar Park through a partnership with a “high wealth individual”, says it has a number of other such projects in the pipeline, in the order of between 3-5MW, although those projects will install ground-mounted solar systems.
But as Barnett notes, the residential solar and battery storage market in Tasmania is also “going off like a rocket.”
“We started a business a year ago in the commercial space with a view of not getting into the race to the bottom that’s happening in the home solar scenario,” he said.
“But then we found our commercial customers were saying, ‘what about our home?’”
So Nest ended up setting up a showcase including solar, storage, LED lighting, heating and cooling and hot water services, foo help customers to match solutions with their needs.
“So that’s sort of grown out of our commercial stuff, which is a commercial bespoke consultancy that essentially says if you change your system to this, the savings will be x.
“The domestic side is going like a rocket down here,” Barnett told One Step over the phone.
“Eighty per cent of our customers here are buying systems either with a battery included or with the capability to have a battery installed later.
“In the last six months that has happened,” he said.
“And we’re getting better at this. We’re working out what the customer really wants.”
“The whole price structure down here hasn’t been friendly to renewables, but because the cost of power is going up so dramatically, there’s an emotional component of this that is ‘I want to take control.’ And if that mixes with the economic component, of lower costing technology, then all the better.”
To help meet the growing demand for residential battery storage in the state, Nest Energy is conducting two workshops this week, at which reps from Tesla, LG Chem and Sonnen will come and show their wares and discuss storage management, whole of system stability, tariff optimisation and return on investment.
“The cost of education is high, but that’s where it’s got to be if we want to stop that race to the bottom,” Barnett said.