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. 

Read More Solar News:

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.

Read More Solar News:

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.

Read More Solar News:

Redflow – ZBM2 Microgrid in Tasmania for Hackett

Redflow CEO Simon Hackett has shifted his Tasmanian sheep and cattle farm to a new power source – a 100kW ground mounted solar microgrid using 27 Redflow ZBM2 batteries. Nice to see the bosses eating their own dog food. Let’s take a look at the project and what their future plans are for it.

Redflow – ZBM2 Microgrid in Tasmania for Hackett

Hackett, the owner of Redflow,  will use an initial deployment of 27 ZBM2 batteries, storing as much as 270 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy, interfaced to a large fault-tolerant cluster of 12 x Victron Quattro 48/15000 inverter/chargers.

Simon Hackett at his Tasmanian farm (source: Redflow)
Simon Hackett at his Tasmanian farm (source: Redflow)

 

“The project, with an overall budget of around $1 million, will include the building of a new site-wide microgrid. This will use new underground power interconnects to link seven distinct buildings across the whole property,” Hackett said in a statement. He went on to discuss the existing situation at the sheep and cattle farm he owns:

“We already have a Tesla Model S at the property and we plan to progressively replace our existing fleet of diesel farm ATVs, utes, and tractors with electric versions as soon they become available,” he said.

“We read with interest earlier this year that Toyota is committed to making electric HiLux 4WD vehicles and we would love to take delivery of the first of those to reach Australian shores.

Hackett explained that the Microgrid has myriad future plans and will be scalable:

“We can and will add more renewable energy generation using solar and/or wind if required in the future. Even after the full replacement of diesel vehicles with electric ones, we expect the property to be a net exporter of electrical energy to the Tasmanian grid,” he said.

Lastly, Hackett is very optimistic (mind you, he’d want to be) about the installation – we’re very interested to see some figures on how much it saves:

“I am convinced, based on my deep experience with Redflow, that ZBM2 batteries at the core of this energy system can deliver the hardworking energy storage and longevity to make this investment pay off over the long term,” he said in comments made last week.

Click here to read the original press release on Redflow’s website, entitled ‘Redflow receives order for ZBM2 batteries to power rural microgrid in North West Tasmania’.

Read More Solar News:

Coles Solar Power – Supermarket signs commercial solar PPA.

Coles solar power – the giant supermarket company has signed a power purchasing agreement (PPA) with global renewable power generation company Metka EGN. Another huge step for commercial solar and retail solar. Let’s read more about it.

Coles Solar Power

The goal is to buy more than 70% of the energy generated by three solar power plants. The plants will be bnuilt and operated by Metka EGN in Wagga Wagga, Corowa, and Junee in New South Wales – this represents 10% of the company’s entire national electricity usage! Metka EGN are a London based EPC contractor working as a subsidiary of Greek company Mytilineos Holdings S.A. According to PV Magazine, construction of 169MW will commence by EOY and project development is at an ‘advanced stage’. 

Coles Group CEO Steven Cain discussed the move and Coles’ goal to be the most sustainable supermarket in Australia:

“Coles has been a cornerstone of Australian retail for more than 100 years, and ensuring the sustainability of our business is essential to success in our second century,” he said.

“We are thrilled that with this agreement, Coles can make a significant contribution to the growth of renewable energy supply in Australia, as well as to the communities we serve.” Mr. Cain continued.

Thinus Keeve, the Coles Chief Property and Export Officer, had some comments about the Coles solar power scheme – noting that it’s the first Australian retailer to commit to buying renewable energy through a PPA.

Metka/Coles’ solar plants will supply over 220 gigawatt hours of electricity to the national grid. This will result in the displacement of over 180,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year. According to the media release this is also the equivalent of the annual emissions of 83,000 cars.

To read the media release entitled ‘Coles agreement secures three new solar power plants’ on the Coles website please click here.

What will Woolworths do to compete with this? Watch this space…

Greenpeace Australia Pacific Senior Campaigner, Lindsay Soutar spoke on the issue:

“Some of the world’s biggest companies, including supermarket chains Walmart and Tesco, have already made the commitment to 100 per cent renewable.

“We look forward to seeing Woolworths make similar commitments,” she said.

 

 

Read More Solar News: