A 4MW rooftop solar project – spread across more than 70 different store locations – is on the verge of completion and will represent what could be the country’s biggest rooftop solar power purchase agreement.
The rollout of rooftop solar by Upstream Energy, on behalf of Beacon Lighting, Australia’s biggest specialist lighting retailer, is already delivering savings on electricity bills of 20-25 per cent, and up to 35 per cent in some stores in particularly sunny areas.
The project – one of Australia’s most ambitious rooftop solar installations – has been led by Upstream Solar, which has supplied the capital, done the installations in conjunction with Beacon Solar, negotiated with the landlords and organised the PPAs to sell the solar output to the Beacon Lighting tenants.
Beacon Lighting needed pay no money for the installation, but the company is reaping average savings of around 25 per cent on its electricity bill – up to 35 per cent in some locations.
So content is it that it has now made rooftop solar installations mandatory for every new store – it rolls out about two each year – and executive chairman Ian Robinson is urging other large format retail chains to do the same.
“We were facing more than a doubling of prices as our electricity contracts expired, so one of the things we decided to do was to put solar systems on our stores,” Robinson told One Step Off The Grid.
“A lot of businesses are scratching their heads as to what they can do. They’re facing substantial increases come from the end of contracts, and it’s a bit of a shock to the system.
“A PPA agreement allows a lot of businesses like ourselves to reduce power costs, or minimise the increase they are facing, with no capital outlay.
“For any new stores, we negotiated a lease to make sure we have got the rights to put solar on the roof. The cost of power for a lighting business is higher than others, and because we operate in daylight hours we get full usage out of the system.”
Nathan Begley, the head of Upstream Energy, says the project is likely the largest aggregated commercial installation in the country.
Other big retailing groups, such as IKEA, have installed similar sized rooftop solar PV, and are being followed by the likes of the Woolworths and others, but this project is unique for the way it was put together.
Getting the landlords across the line was the biggest challenge. Mostly it was about education, what it meant for their rooftops (very little in most cases), and the attraction of renting our roof-space on top of the building as well as the shops and offices inside
The sealer is the prospect that the landlords will assume ownership once the average 12-year PPAs are concluded. That will give them an extra asset, and an extra attraction for new lessees.
“We install the installation, we monitor it, we maintain it, and the incentive for the landlord is that it gets the asset at the completion of the PPA, and ends up with a more sustainable building. And they get a bargaining tool for future (lease) agreements.”
Begley says he expects other chains to follow, and is being supported by Robinson who is also chair of the Large Format Retail Association.
“We consider that to be the next phase – moving across the commercial space with similar projects and PPA,” Begley says.
Then it will also look at the creation of localised micro-grids, using the roof space, installing solar and storage, and allowing a micro-grid with trading. “That will be the future,” Begley says.
In the meantime, there are also opportunities in the smaller scale 5MW to 10MW solar farms that can be installed easily on the grid, and can then be used to write PPAs with various customers. It will be a lot easier than negotiating with 70 or so different landlords.