A shopping centre in Northam, Western Australia, has become the latest in the country to install a solar car park, with the 665kW facility unveiled this week as part of a major overhaul of the Northam Boulevard Shopping Centre, that will generated nearly half of the centre’s energy needs.
WA’s minister for regional development, Alannah McTiernan, officially launched the completed project on Tuesday last week, in what is being claimed as a first for the state – although a 312kW array at the Broadway Fair Shopping Centre in the Perth suburb of Nedlands (pictured below) features some panels on its car park, too.
Other solar car parks around Australia include the massive Sydney Markets installation, which now totals 910kW after the completion of a 640kW purpose-built solar car park in March. A 636kW system has also been installed on the roof of the carpark at The Pines Elanora, on Queensland’s Gold Coast.
The $15 million Northam project – the cost includes the redevelopment of the entire shopping centre – was developed by Perdaman Advanced Energy, an offshoot of the Perdaman Group, which bought Northam Boulevard in 2014 for $14 million with the aim of creating a community precinct at the heart of the town.
Perdaman Group, previously known as Perdaman Chemicals and Fertilisers, and Perdaman Industries, is the same company behind stalled plans to build a $3.5 billion fertiliser plant in the state’s south-west.
The ill-fated Collie Urea project, which reportedly attracted millions in funding support from the then state government, was supposed to boost the market for coal in the state, but hit a wall in 2011 after Perdaman became embroiled in a legal dispute with one of the region’s two coal miners, and has not progressed since.
According to Perdaman Group chairman Vikas Rambal, the company has now switched its focus to regional development and solar energy, with plans for its Port Coogee Village Shopping Centre in North Coogee, and to target other regional centres across the state.
“There’s never been a better time to invest in solar energy and we are committed to expanding our presence in regional areas,” Rambal said in a statement.
“The (Northam) installation will generate over one million kilowatt hours a year which equates to 40 per cent of the shopping centre’s annual electricity requirements.
“The new solar car park provides much needed shade for shoppers but also turns the space into a revenue generating piece of infrastructure,” he said.
“Together with the solar panels on the shopping centre roof, we have created the largest solar installation in the state and brought the Northam Boulevard Shopping Centre into the solar age.”
Whether or not the Northam project is the largest in the state is questionable, but what is certain is that commercial solar is a red hot sector in Western Australia, as it is in the rest of the country.
But in WA last October, the former Liberal state government removed regulatory red tape that it said could reduce the cost of commercial-scale rooftop solar installations by up to $30,000 per system.
“The next phase of the solar revolution will be driven by commercial rooftop solar systems and that’s why we’re making it easier for businesses to take advantage of this technology,” said then energy minister, Mike Nahan, at the time.