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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Victorian Solar Rebate Rally | Solar Homes

Victorian Solar Rebate Rally – a rally was held at Victoria’s Parliament House today where hundreds of people in the solar industry voiced their displeasure with the rollout (and subsequent roll-in) of the Victorian solar rebate. Have they got a fair enough gripe? Let’s take a look.

Victorian Solar Rebate Rally

The original Victorian solar rebate (AKA Solar Homes) was announced in the lead-up to the 2018 election by Daniel Andrews and Lily D’Ambrosio. The plan was to install subsidised solar panels and/or solar batteries ($2,225 per system) – which then caused statewide PV solar installations to skyrocket from 3,000 / month to 7,000 / month.

Presumably the industry didn’t have too many issues with that, but the problem was when the scheme was paused in April 2019, only just recently reopening under an agency named Solar Victoria who had Stan Krpan from the Victorian Cladding Taskforce heading it up. 

This stop/start issue has seen a couple of follow-on effects – with owners now adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach and the subsequent slowdown in installations is causing a big bite for Victorian solar installers, especially those who have (bravely, given they’re relying on the Government) planned a growth strategy around the rebate. 

”This is a gold-level performance in incompetence,” said John Grimes of the Smart Energy Council in quotes relayed in The Age.

“The industry has become a solar coaster: one minute it’s up, the next it’s down.”

According to Mr. Grimes, installations across Victoria are down 30% since April. We also commend his pun game.

The Age article also quotes Dave Douglas of EverSolar who discussed his growth strategy prior to the rebate pausing and how it’s affected his business:

“We doubled in size because of this rebate. We put on an extra 20 staff, got more vans and ordered more solar panels.”

Mr. Douglas had a couple of ideas how to solve the issue – double the monthly subsidy quota or drop the eligibility from a pre-tax household income from $180,000 to about $80,000.

Opposition energy spokesman Ryan Smith was at the rally as well, with his own opinion (which, surprisingly, was the opposite of the incumbent Government) on the rebate:

“The change has made it more difficult to have panels installed,” he said. “Far from being cheaper, as businesses close, competition will dry up and panel installation costs will rise.”

Thoughts? Are you a solar business owner or a Victorian looking to get solar installed on your home? We’d love to hear from you.
 
To read more about the Victorian solar rebate please click here.

 

 

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Cultana solar farm EPC services signed.

The Cultana solar farm is one step closer to completion today – as Sanjay Gupta’s Simec Energy Australia securing an EPC partnership agreement with Shanghai Electric. Let’s take a look!

Cultana solar farm EPC services signed.

The 280W solar farm is located near the Wynalla Steelworks (also owned by Mr Gupta’s GFG Alliance under the name Liberty OneSteel), and will be built through Simec Energy, Gupta’s renewable arm which has a lofty goal of $1b spend in clean energy projects. The Cultana solar farm is set to cost $350m and represents the first stage of Simec Energy’s $1b plan.

“Cultana Solar Farm is an ambitious project that will deliver globally-competitive renewable energy on a large scale to power-heavy industry. It is a great step forward in our vision to revitalise industry and we look forward to working with our partners to bring our renewables projects to life,” Gupta was quoted as saying upon hearing the news.

“Our planned Next-Gen project will ignite a new industrial revolution in Australia. These projects are shining examples of GFG’s commitment to create a sustainable future for industry and build stronger local communities,” Mr. Gupta continued.

Last month we wrote about how the solar farm has been granted approval from the South Australian government despite an interesting objection Adania Renewables lodged against the application.

The basis of this program is up to 1GW of solar to be constructed in and around Whyalla, so more great news for South Australian  solar. Reid told the solar conference that the first step is an 80MW solar farm “behind the meter” near the Whyalla Steelworks, and after this they will install 200MW of grid connected solar on property owned by GFG Alliance.

According to RenewEconomy, the solar farm will include over 880,000 solar panels and they will be supplied by Wuxi Suntech.

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Cultana Solar Farm to go ahead

The Cultana solar farm will go ahead, having received planning approval from the South Australian government. Let’s take a closer look at the project. 

Cultana Solar Farm to go ahead

The Cultana solart farm will be a 280MW solar farm being developed by Simec Zen Energy Australia. The project is set to commence construction within the next 12 months. It’ll be constructed on land next to the Whyalla Steelworks, who are currently expanding via Sanjeev Gupta and GFG Alliance (and who will undoubtedly need more power in the coming months and years). 

Sanjeev Gupta and GFG Alliance’s $1b fund to help support solar power in the Whyalla will be tapped for the Cultana project – despite some blowback from Adani Renewables who have bizarrely asked that the project be assessed by the Federal Department of the Environment under the EBPC Act. Adani have raised concerns about the potential impact on animals such as the threatened western grass wren and the slender-billed thornbill. They also discussed the problems with impact to Aboriginal heritage, dust, and traffic impacts. Seems strange given their own project will undoubtedly be scrutinized for the same reasons, but they must have a plan…

The project was signed off by SA Minister for Planning Stephan Knoll who put some restrictions on the approval. Simec have been asked to submit Environmental Management Plans for the construction and the operation phases of the Cultana Solar Farm. 

According to RenewEconomy, the $350M project will generate 600GWh of electricity per annum. This project is tipped to create 350 jobs during construction and 10 ongoing operations solar jobs after it’s completed. It’s expected to contribute savings of 492,000 tonnes of co2 emissions per year. 

Cultana (source: rowanramsey.com.au)

“There is a great future for energy‐intensive industries in Australia,” Sanjeev Gupta was quoted as saying. 

“This the first step in GFG leading the country’s industrial transition to more competitive energy.”

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Solar Homes policy – NSW Solar grant

Solar Homes policy – the NSW Labor party have announced a huge solar rebate they will implement if they win the upcoming state election. Let’s learn more about how many households could be helped and what the particulars of the scheme are. 

Solar Homes policy

Michael Daley - Solar Homes Policy (source: michaeldaley.com.au)
Labor leader Michael Daley – announcing the Solar Homes Policy (source: michaeldaley.com.au)

The Solar Homes policy was announced by NSW Labor leader Michael Daley on his official website this week:

“This program will take NSW to over a million solar homes. Based on current take up rates for household solar, the program could help add solar to an additional 1 million homes over the next decade.” the website states. Further reading into the document shows that 500,000 households will benefit from the solar scheme. 

Under the Solar Homes policy, owner-occupied households in New South Wales are eligible for a rebate of up to $2,200, as long as their combined annual income is less than $180,000. 

Deputy Leader and Shadow Environment Minister Penny Sharpe said, “Under this plan, everyone wins. Families get help with their electricity bills and we are taking real action on climate change and giving NSW a cleaner, greener future.”

NSW Labor’s Leader in the Legislative Council and Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change, Adam Searle said, “Solar Homes is just one aspect of Labor’s plan for cheaper and cleaner energy across NSW. Our policies will cut both electricity bills and carbon emissions. We look forward to providing more in the lead up to the election.”

If Labor do win the state election (which will be held on March 23) and the Solar Homes policy goes ahead, it will commence in the 19-20 financial year (“to ensure an orderly rollout”), and follow other states with their own initiatives:

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