How to Incorporate Solar Into Your Business’s Sustainability Strategy 

How to Incorporate Solar Into Your Business’s Sustainability Strategy 

Australian businesses are more united than ever in the fight against climate change, with 96 percent of companies backing the government’s target of net zero emissions by 2050, according to a survey by the Carbon Market Institute. Businesses contribute more than their fair share to greenhouse gas emissions, so it’s only fair that they be on the front line in the fight against environmental degradation. One of the best ways that you can reduce your business’s carbon footprint is by incorporating solar into your sustainability strategy. Solar energy has become a promising option in Australia as a result of falling prices and its availability in most parts of the country. However, being a costly and long-term investment, you need to come up with a well-thought-out plan on how to deploy solar power effectively. 

Start with an energy and waste audit 

An energy audit should be your first step before making any energy-saving improvements in your business, as well as before adding a solar power system to your business. An energy audit will help you gain a clear picture of how you use energy in your business; the total amount of energy you use, the amount of energy you waste, the areas where your business is losing energy, and the problem areas and fixes that need to be prioritised to make your business more energy efficient.

Knowing your energy requirements, you’ll have a good idea of the number of solar panels and batteries you need. While performing your energy audit, it’s also important to find out if there are other ways that your business is being wasteful or destructive to the environment. For example, all your efforts to install a solar power system may be futile if you are still contributing heaps of plastic waste to landfills. You can look for ways of minimising plastic waste in your business such as banning single-use plastics, encouraging homemade lunches, and promoting a recycling culture in your workplace. 

Work out your finances 

Solar power can be a costly investment, and your ability to deploy will depend on various factors unique to your business; availability of discretionary cash, size of the system, and your desire for fast, dramatic energy cost savings. If the cash is available, purchasing the solar power system outright is the best option since cash deals usually have a higher return on investment. However, cash deals require an upfront capital investment that may not be feasible for all businesses.

The good thing about solar energy is that it’s remarkably scalable. You can start small with a solar array that only contributes a fraction of your total energy requirements and build it out over time to cater for all your electrical needs. As you analyse your finances, don’t forget to factor in the incentives offered by the government. For example, if you are generating more power than you need, you can qualify for a feed-in tariff that pays you a sum of money for feeding energy back into the electricity grid. 

Determine how to deploy your solar power system 

You have various options on how to deploy your solar power system. The most popular option is installing solar panels on the roof of your business premises. If your property is not ideal for rooftop solar, you can install a ground-mounted solar power system instead. Another option that is slowly gaining traction in Australia is solar roof tiles, where you replace traditional roofing tiles with photovoltaic shingles that look and function like conventional roof tiles but have energy-producing capabilities. 

Switching to solar energy is not only good for the environment but also for your business’s bottom line. Businesses can save thousands of dollars annually in energy costs by switching to solar energy. On top of that, businesses that take sustainability seriously are gaining a competitive advantage over those who don’t as more consumers become eco-conscious. 

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Solar Carport for the Tesla Cybertruck?

Australian Startup Poised To Solve Problems For Tesla Cybertruck With Unique Solar Carport

The Tesla Cybertruck has received nearly 150,000 pre-orders, despite its widely-mocked launch. With production set to begin in 2021, the Cybertruck has been widely criticised by skeptics, not least because of its unconventional form, which is incompatible with other truck parts and is unlikely to fit in a standard garage or parking space. Tesla is no stranger to bumps in the road, however, and already creative thinkers are beginning to navigate the issue. At the forefront is Iron Matrix, an Australian startup focused on clean energy buildings. 

A Solar Carport Fit For A Cybertruck

Iron Matrix has unveiled plans for a solar-panelled carport to go alongside its solar construction to support life off-grid, which has recently been patented. The company’s founder and CEO, David Morgan, thought up a straightforward design using bolted steel construction techniques to produce a shelter for the Cybertruck that generates energy. Solar carports have proven successful in other areas, supplying energy to entire businesses and generating their own income in addition to charging the electric vehicles they shelter. Morgan plans to target the Californian market, and the Cybertruck-friendly solar port has been granted a tech patent in the USA. The design plans for the port suggest that the invention will be capable of powering the Cybertruck for approximately 100km per charge.

Charge Anywhere

What’s really special about Iron Matrix’s design is that the port is to be flat-pack, with each steel piece able to fit into the Cybertruck for easy transportation, allowing you to construct the port and charge the vehicle wherever you are. The design takes a fundamental problem with the Cybertruck’s design and turns it into an advantage: the garage space travels with you. “All of a sudden that Cybertruck sounds like a fantastic idea,” said Morgan, whose patent for the solar construction method allows Iron Matrix buildings to be built anywhere – cranes, footings and scaffolding are not needed due to the specialised joint connections used.

Power For 100km A Day

The Cybertruck will require a significant amount of energy to charge, but Morgan estimates that the solar carport will be capable of outputting approximately 30kWh per day. He says the port will get a standard electric vehicle about 150km a day, and the Cybertruck roughly 100km a day. The idea is that the truck could be left to charge for a few days while you take the weekend to live off-grid. The Iron Matrix system was inspired by the falling cost of lithium batteries, which can now “deliver a kilowatt hour for half the price of the grid,” said Morgan. The Cybertruck carport can already be ordered: production of the steel began in October 2019 and became publicly available once Iron Matrix received its patent.

There is international competition for Iron Matrix though: Lars Büro, a design and research agency in New York has unveiled a ‘Cyberbunker’ designed to solve the same problem for Tesla’s Cybertruck. Iron Matrix’s unique system of solar charging, however, is sure to keep it a step ahead of its competitors.

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Australia’s wineries go green using solar energy

Australia’s wineries go green using solar energy

More Australian wineries are turning to the sun, making the switch to solar power to help in wine production. Driven by rising costs of electricity from non-renewable sources, lower costs of solar power installation, and the potential benefits of producing own power, many wineries haven taken the bold step of investing in more renewable sources. By utilising solar energy for growing grapes and producing wines, wineries in Australia can both save on major costs and reduce their overall carbon footprint.

Photo by Mariana Proença on Unsplash

Electricity is the biggest expense in wine production

For most wineries in Australia, electricity is their largest expense item in the production of their wines. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) estimates that around 40% of expenditures of wineries go towards electricity, whilst the South Australian Wine Industry Association (SAWIA) says that refrigeration eats up 50-70% of total power costs. Thus, it is no surprise that vineyards look for ways to reduce energy expenses.

Investing in renewable sources makes sense that will drive electricity expenditures down, lower overhead costs, and improve margins. For producers of quality Australian red wines, solar power not only reduces energy costs, but also maximises commercial roof space and reaffirms their commitment to a lower carbon footprint.

Incentive to attract investments in solar power

Solar power adoption surged in Australia in 2008, and even though costs of materials and installation were high, government incentives were also widely available until 2011. Between 2011-14, the prices of solar systems fell. From 2014 to present, there is relative stability in the solar system industry. Photovoltaic (PV) system prices are down significantly and there are existing incentive schemes for solar panels and batteries that are offered at state level, making investments in the area still attractive.

For 2020, interest-free loans up to $9,000 for a solar battery and $14,000 for a solar PV and battery storage system for households with an annual income of $180,000 or less are available. Under the Small-Scale Renewable Energy Scheme, both households and smalls business in Australia that install small-scale renewable energy systems may be eligible for assistance to help with the purchase cost. Eligible participants may be entitled to small-scale technology certificates which can be sold to recoup a part of the purchase and installation cost.

Wineries adopt renewable power sources

An independent report produced by AgEconPlus revealed a 13% increase in the economic contribution of the wine industry since 2015 or an increase of roughly 3% per year. Strong wine exports are largely responsible for recovery in the wine sector. But, the competition is tough and the over 2,000 wineries in Australia have to stay competitive.

In fact, wineries were some of the earliest adopters of solar energy, with dozens in South Australia harnessing solar energy for wine production. Some wineries that have in excess of 100kW solar systems include D’Arenberg, Wirra Wirra, Sidewood, and Peter Lehmann. Recently, Pernod Ricard has become the first large wine company in the country to achieve 100% renewable electricity with the completion of Australia’s biggest combined winery solar installation. According to the winery’s chief operations officer, Brett McKinnon, “being sustainable and responsible is an important part of their business and they want to reduce their impact on the communities where they operate”.

Australian wineries recognise the opportunities to tap into solar energy and enjoy the cost-saving and environmental benefits. Using renewable sources not only lowers electricity costs, but also fulfils a company’s global-minded goals.

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Rolling With The Times: The Business Benefits of Going Green

While 90% of Australian businesses are interested in being environmentally sustainable, only half are actively doing their share, according to HP Australia. That is an interesting thought given that sustainable and eco-friendly technology is consistently improving. In order to get brands and businesses to be more environmentally aware, they must get a clear understanding of the benefits they can reap from solar panels and the like. So what sort of benefits exist? 

Energy Cost Savings and Rebates

One of the ways retailers can become green is by embracing energy efficiency. Solar panel technology is a gateway to energy cost savings and energy efficiency. It’s also an opportunity to earn more money. A good example of this is David Green of Melbourne who sheared off nearly $500 from his energy bill by installing solar panels. Beyond that, he was able to earn $800 from the government as any excess energy he generates gets sent into the grid which is distributed to other consumers. These are savings and earnings that savvy businesses can take part in and it’s all because of embracing eco-friendly solutions.

Green Fund Loan 

The Australian government is also embracing the sustainability movement and is actively empowering consumers to do the same. A common concern about renewable technology is the initial hefty cost that goes along with it. Australia’s answer to that is the Sustainable Australia Fund wherein consumers and businesses can offset the costs of solar panel installation prices through a loan that can be paid over a 20-year period. Needless to say, switching to sustainable technologies is an affordable and practical move that every business will benefit from.

Sustainable Consumer Benefit

Businesses listen to the loudest voice and this voice belongs to their consumers. Roughly 83% of Australians expressed that it was extremely important to them that brands offer environmentally friendly products and services, according to Accenture. From the packaging to the materials, consumers are now highly discerning about the brands they patronise. If a brand does not share a client’s conservation-led advocacy, those consumers are less likely to be customers. When brands do not adjust accordingly, their profit margins will eventually suffer. So businesses that embrace solar technology effectively attract consumers who are concerned about sustainability and the environment.

The concept of sustainability is not just a trend with benefits, it is virtually a necessity. Businesses must realise by now that being eco-friendly isn’t just a statement or a PR move. It is something that they and the community they are a part of will ultimately benefit from.

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Tesla Solar Roof Problems | What’s Next?

Tesla roof woes – Some early adopters have been experiencing Tesla solar roof problems – with one roof in Colorado catching fire and whispers of a secret “Project Titan” which Tesla have launched last year to fix faulty wiring/connectors on Tesla solar roofs America wide.

Tesla Solar Roof Problems

Tesla solar roof problems have been plaguing the company as people begin to wonder about the company’s cashflow, vision, and whether they may have overextended themselves. Well, by people I mean me – talking about Tesla as a whole. Powerwalls, Powerpacks, Model 3s, Solar Roofs. Let me know what you think in the comments. Certainly can’t blame Elon Musk for being conservative or not taking risks! 

An article by Business Insider notes that Briana Greer from Colorado was contacted by Tesla in late July about some ‘voltage fluctuations’ for the past couple of days. They promised to come and fix it on August 8 but unfortunately the house experienced a Combustible Episode before the techs arrived. According to Greer, they also wouldn’t tell her what went wrong:

“They purposely keep a lot of people in the dark. For an energy company, that’s ironic,” Greer told Business Insider in an interview last month. Wonder how long it took her to think up that one. Still, good burn.

Tesla Solar Roof
Tesla Solar Roof Problems (source: tesla.com)

According to the same article Tesla were quoted in Fox Colorado as saying “its solar panels are safe and very rarely catch fire.” Well, that’s reassuring! 

The system was installed by Xcel Energy and made by Trina (who recommend panels be inspected twice a year – something Greer says Telstra didn’t do).  

In August, Walmart sued Tesla after seven of its stores caught fire – Walmart are also complaining that Tesla can’t (or won’t?) tell them why the fire started. According to Walmart’s research, Tesla used faulty Amphenol connectors which failed in their task of heat regulation. This lead to the solar panels being subjected to a barrage of temperature spikes (which, ultimately, can lead to Walmarts on fire). Not great news. In any case, the ‘Project Titan‘ is pretty interesting, click to read Business Insider’s article on it.

If you’re interested in reading more articles talking about solar roof technology and goings on please click!

Got one of these Tesla roofs and having issues with it? Please let us know in the comments. 

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