ASX-listed retail asset manager Vicinity Centres has turned its $75 million solar and storage plans up a notch with the announcement of a trial of energy sharing blockchain technology, in partnership with local Australian start-up, Power Ledger.
The trial will integrate Power Ledger’s energy management platform with the megawatts-worth of rooftop solar and battery storage Vicinity is rolling out, as part of an industry-leading effort to cut its commercial property power consumption by 40 per cent.
Those plans kicked off in May of this year, when Vicinity announced the roll-out of more than 11MW of commercial solar in a $28 million project that would incorporate five shopping centres across Western Australia and South Australia.
As we reported then, that plan – Stage 1 – was expected to notch up a couple of records for Australia: the largest single commercial array (5.8MW at Elizabeth City Centre in SA) and the “largest battery installation” (500kWh) at a shopping centre nationally.
In Stage 2, announced earlier this month, the plan was dramatically ramped up to a $75 million spend, across three more states – Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland – and adding “other energy technologies” to the mix.
Enter Power Ledger. The Perth-based company kicked off trials of its peer-to-peer energy trading technology in 2016, on the Western Power network.
As we explained then, the P2P platform is based on blockchain – the software that underpins bitcoin, the virtual currency that has proved popular in many markets.
The technology works to identify the ownership of energy as it is generated and then to manage multiple trading agreements between consumers who buy excess solar direct from the original owner/producer, without the addition of market costs and commercial margins.
Since 2016, Power Ledger has gone from strength to strength, with multiple trials in Australia – including residential projects in partnership with major utilities AGL Energy and Origin – and abroad, in markets including Japan, Thailand and the US.
Most recently, the company’s US partner, Clean Energy Blockchain Network (CEBN), was tapped to manage credits generated by the use of renewable energy in electric vehicle charging in California’s Silicon Valley.
Vicinity said its own trial of Power Ledger’s technology would begin at Castle Plaza in South Australia (it’s solar rooftop is pictured above) and would be used to manage the shopping centre’s energy use and distribution in real-time, switching between solar and national grid energy.
Ultimately, however, the plan is to use the platform to supply renewable energy to the shopping centres’ neighbouring communities, via their own secure solar and storage networks.
“Vicinity is one of the first property companies in Australia to be trialling energy blockchain technology and we’re committed to continuing that leadership through our integrated energy strategy,” said Vicinity’s head of shopping centre management, Justin Mills in comments on Tuesday.
“We understand internationally there are already property groups exploring Power Ledger’s platform however Vicinity is the first retail-based company globally to partner with them for this type of project,” he said.
“Our aim is to create interconnected communities as part of our integrated energy strategy. Our priority is to consume the solar and battery energy on-site, to reduce our reliance on the national grid and provide our retailers with a buffer from the volatile energy market.
“We know there are going to be times, such as when the centre is closed, when we will have excess energy which we may trade back into the grid. The trial, announced today, will also look at how we could, in the future, use peer-to-peer trading to sell our renewable energy to the communities around our centres, unlocking more affordable energy for our customers.”
Mills said the future of energy was about creating interconnected communities, including on-site generation, which was why peer-to-peer energy trading would also be considered as part of Vicinity’s mixed-use strategy, with a significant development pipeline of projects in planning.
Power Ledger managing director and co-founder David Martin described Vicinity as an industry leader on sustainable energy.
“The introduction of blockchain technology makes sense to its business,” Martin said. “It’s a smart solution for Vicinity as they pioneer the new energy economy.”