Installation of one of Australia’s largest rooftop solar arrays underway

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The installation of one of Australia’s largest rooftop solar arrays is underway at a former car manufacturing site at Tonsley in Adelaide. The installation compassing over 7,400 solar panels will form the first stage of wider plans to deliver up to 6 MW of solar at the site, which is being redeveloped to include housing and businesses.

After the site was bought by the South Australian Government a decade ago, plans were made to turn Tonsley into a climate smart precinct. The plans involved an energy production and trading scheme, which would use energy generated by about 20,000 solar PV panels installed on the eight-hectare roof of the former Mitsubishi factory building and adjoining TAFE SA building.

The Tonsley District Energy Scheme is being delivered by Enwave Energy, a subsidiary of utilities provider Enwave Australia, which has pledged to invest about $40 million over a 50-year period for PV, battery storage, smart technologies and future electrical assets. Enwave Energy has subcontract ZEN Energy to instal the first phase solar array on the roof of the Main Assembly Building, providing jobs for up to 40 installers, electricians, engineers and support staff.

“The District Energy Scheme demonstrates South Australia’s leadership in the renewable energy sector, and Tonsley is becoming a hub for businesses and innovation in this space,” Minister for Energy and Mining, Dan van Holst Pellekaan said.  “The solar energy installation will offset as much as 3,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year over its lifetime, and is part of Tonsley’s commitment to sustainability and innovation, as well as its Six Star Green Star Communities Rating.”

Once fully constructed, the solar installation will work in sync with an on-site battery and smart network design services provided by Siemens. The system will optimise solar energy generation for the energy demands of the entire Tonsley precinct, enhancing security of energy supply and providing competitive energy pricing to both commercial and residential customers.

Businesses at Tonsley will have the choice to buy their electricity from Enwave Australia at competitive market rates and support the site’s shift to cleaner energy, or buy from the energy retailer of their choice. The scheme will later expand to include the provision of recycled water for non-drinking purposes and natural gas for residences in Tonsley Village.

“The Tonsley District Energy Scheme has been designed to ensure customers within the district benefit from a reliable, cost effective and renewable supply of energy,” Enwave Australia Chief Executive Officer Cameron Evans said. “The rooftop solar installation is a key component of this system, which will be integrated into the wider scheme to ensure all customers benefit from the installation.”

ZEN Energy, a division of Simec Energy Australia, a member of Sanjeev Gupta’s global GFG Alliance, plans to deliver the installation by early next year. “The array 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, which we’re really excited about,” ZEN Energy Chief Executive Officer Marc Barrington said.

The Tonsley site is managed by Renewal SA on behalf of the State Government and is the home of leading firms in the renewable energy sector, including Simec Zen Energy, Tesla, AZZO and Siemens. “We’re excited about the role that ZEN Energy is playing in this for homes, business, and industry across Australia,” GFG Alliance Executive Chairman Sanjeev Gupta said. “We hope to see more projects like the Tonsley District Energy Scheme in the future as we begin to transition and rely more on renewable energy to power our communities.”

In some of its previous renewable energy initiatives, Simec Zen Energy launched a landmark US$1 billion (AU$1.38 billion) dispatchable program for South Australia’s heavy industry and inked a 15-year PPA with Victoria’s 100 MW Numurkah Solar Farm to support firm retail supply contracts to commercial and industrial customers in Victoria, including the Melbourne-based Laverton steelworks.