ZEN Energy to install massive solar array to power S.A. tech hub

Plans power South Australia’s Tonsley Innovation District with up to 6MW of solar have taken a major step forward this week, with ZEN Energy winning the contract to install a first-stage 2.3MW array.

ZEN, which – as a division of SIMEC Energy Australia – is a part of Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance, said on Wednesday it would soon start installing the more than 7,000-panel PV system, after signing up for the job.

The company, which formed out of an Adelaide outfit called Zen Industries, is itself headquartered at Tonsley – a former car manufacturing facility that has been converted into a cleantech and innovation hub that is home to some big names, including Tesla and Siemens.

Plans to power Tonsley with a massive rooftop solar array have been around since 2014, after the state government bought the ex-car plant in 2010.

Under the plans, Enwave Energy will subcontract ZEN Energy to install and maintain the system, while Siemens will provide smart network design services.

ZEN says stage one of the Tonsley District Energy Scheme will install more than 7,400 PV panels across the eight-hectare roofs of Tonsley’s Main Assembly Building (MAB) and, once complete, the installation will generate up to 3.2 million kWh of energy a year.

The solar installation – which may eventually reach the size of 6MW – will ultimately work in conjunction with on-site battery storage and smart technologies as part of a site-wide microgrid.

According to Renewal SA’s Mark Devine, who manages Tonsley for the state government, the initial stages of the District Energy Scheme will include access to electricity and recycled water services for the entire Tonsley community.

Businesses at Tonsley have the choice to buy their electricity from Enwave Energy at competitive market rates or from the energy retailer of their choice.

“We are extremely proud to have won the contract for this landmark energy project and to be delivering one of Australia’s largest rooftop solar arrays,” said SIMEC Energy Australia CEO Marc Barrington in comments on Wednesday.

“Once it’s completed, our installation will work hand in hand with a range of other technologies in the Tonsley District Energy Scheme to showcase how the benefits of renewable energy can be integrated across an entire community.

“This Tonsley project will be yet another landmark in the long and successful history of ZEN Energy, and proves how the company can be trusted to deliver market leading solar energy installations,” he said.

“Many of Australia’s large energy users are starting to identify the benefits that our integration can provide, and we look forward to doing the same with many others.”

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