A solar fresh-food logo for Woolworths Orange

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It’s almost a shame that it doesn’t light up at night, but that would defeat the purpose of a new 100 kW solar array on the rooftop of Woolworths in the New South Wales regional city of Orange, which is laid out in the shape of the supermarket’s logo, and intended to reduce emissions and electricity costs.

The store has become one of more than 140 Woolworths Group sites now sporting solar panels, in line with the company’s reframed goal of reducing emissions by 60% on 2015 levels by 2030. In 2019, Woolworths Group blitzed its goal of 10% reductions by 2020, having already achieved carbon emissions 18% below 2015 levels.

Exclusive viewing by light planes and drones

Employees in Orange are proud of their first-in-Australia, logo-shaped installation, with the phone operator telling pv magazine this morning that she wanted to bring her drone in to photograph the logo-shaped solar array from above.

In a statement announcing the array, store Manager, Rae-Anne Ross acknowledged the energy-intensity of supermarket lighting, air conditioning and refrigeration, but said Woolworths is investing in more energy efficient systems across group operations, “and harnessing the power of renewables across the network too.”

The new installation in this regional hub can generate more than 150 MWh of electricity each year, or the equivalent of energy used by 23 average Australian households over the same period, and will offset 8% of the store’s energy use.

Woolworths spokesperson Nathan Farebrother told pv magazine that logo-shaped arrays may be considered in future on a case-by-case basis; the Orange rooftop was ideally suited to a different solar treatment because its large expanse allowed the 357 high-efficiency solar panels to be spread out.

Energy efficiencies let solar shine

Woolworths Group Better for Everyone 2019 Sustainability Report, which includes figures up to the end of the 2018/19 financial year, declares a total of 14 MW of solar installed across more than 100 of the group’s stores and two distribution centres.

Woolworths has focused on energy efficiencies in tandem with its solar rollout, and reports that all its Australian supermarkets are now connected to its Energy Management Centre, which has so far used data to effect more than 1,500 changes to HVAC system settings alone, resulting in more than $1.3 million in energy savings.

Energy-efficient LED lighting installed in more than 800 Woolworths stores has reduced energy consumption at each property by 10-15%, resulting in a total energy saving equivalent to the power consumption of 50 stores.

The decline in energy intensity of Woolworths Group in recent years.

Image: Woolworths

The 400 kW PV solar and 250 kW/500 kWh Tesla Powerpack battery installed at Woolworths Sydney Liquor Distribution Centre at Erskine Park in 2018 has also participated in some six peak demand events, helping to manage the grid during high demand periods on hot summer days.

Green bonds well deployed

Last year the company was lauded by the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI) — the London-based certifying body for such bond issues — when it raised $400 million in Green Bonds that allowed its investors to support projects and assets that deliver positive environmental outcomes.

The green-capital raising was supported by a $30 million investment from the federally-funded Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).

The first supermarket operator in the world to issue CBI-certified Green Bonds, Woolworths was inundated with investor responses and has subsequently allocated such funds to solar installations, waste-reduction initiatives and the development of low-carbon supermarkets such as the group’s Heidelberg, Victoria store, which has incorporated a range of environmental features that result in 25% lower greenhouse gas emissions than a regular Woolworths supermarket.

As a result of Woolworths’ commitment in this space, we have developed a global low‑carbon buildings criteria for supermarkets, applicable in multiple jurisdictions,” said Sean Kidney, CEO and Founder of CBI at the time of the bond issue.

He added, “We hope Woolworths’ leadership will encourage other companies, from SME‑sized to ASX‑listed, to invest further in projects and assets that deliver positive environmental and climate outcomes, while also contributing to the development of green finance and Green Bond markets.”

In May, at the height of the COVID lockdown, the first sods were turned on a $50 million Woolworths development at Kirrawee in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire, which will incorporate solar from the outset, along with a rainwater-harvesting system.

The company has a long-range view for phased upgrade of all its properties, and for influencing its supply chains to minimise environmental impact.

Says Rae-Anne Ross:  “At Woolworths Orange, we’re pleased to be doing our bit for the planet with this solar installation. It will not only reduce the store’s environmental footprint, but also help keep costs down.”