Epho installs 100 solar systems in 100 days as Aldi Australia commits to 100% renewables


That Aldi Australia is a supermarket with a keen eye for the future was demonstrated many moons ago when it cast me in one of its Christmas commercials, but now Aldi has put the fact beyond all doubt by committing to 100% renewable electricity for its Australian operations by the end of 2021. To achieve this ambitious goal, Aldi has partnered with Epho Commercial Solar (Epho) for one of the biggest solar rollouts in recent memory – 175 stores and six distribution centres, and signed two PPAs with large-scale wind farms. 

By the end of 2020, Aldi Australia, the 64th largest user of electricity in the country, will be generating 15% of its total energy from rooftop solar installed across over 250 of its Australian stores and six distribution centres. The portfolio boasts 102,000 panels, many of which have been installed by Epho at 100 stores in 100 business days. This partnership will see Aldi become the first supermarket in Australia to commit to 100% renewable electricity by the end of 2021. A commitment Aldi believes demonstrates clear evidence that Australia’s biggest electricity users should factor renewable energy into long term planning. 

Aldi Australia CEO Tom Daunt said that the “growth of the renewable energy market will deliver a brighter future for Australia,” and noted that significant investment from the big players would make renewable energy “more accessible and more affordable for all Australians, in addition to the jobs and economic opportunities it will create. Despite short-term costs,” continued Daunt, “we believe that continued corporate investment in renewables will net cost reductions for us and others in the years to come.” 

Aldi, said Daunt, is the first to admit it still has a long way to go, many trucks on the road, and an extensive supply chain reliant on fossil fuels. But “we will continue to work within our business and closely with our business partners to reduce emissions and preference renewable sources of energy.” 

The Epho/Aldi panel partnership will reduce the supermarket’s carbon emissions by 41,000 tonnes annually, the equivalent of removing 11,700 cars from the road. 

Epho is no stranger to supermarket clients. In July 2020, Epho dramatically called in air support via the use of a helicopter to lift its solar systems onto 12 separate rooftops at Woolworths headquarters after restricted crane locations forced the installer to think outside the box. 

But of course, it takes a certain manner of confidence to call in a chopper, the kind of secure confidence provided by experience. Epho and Aldi partnered up way back in 2015, but only delivered one store installation in that year and one more the following year. Now Aldi has more on-site solar systems than any company in Australia, most of them 100 kW systems installed in a staggering 100 business day period by Epho, but also featuring larger urban solar power stations on distribution centres such as that at Regency Park, South Australia (650 kW), Brendale, Queensland (1 MW), Derrimut, Victoria (1.4 MW), and Dandenong, Victoria (1.5 MW). 

Epho’s managing director Oliver Hartley said that Epho’s now well refined and swift installation process, which could be likened to a well-oiled machine if oil weren’t made so redundant by solar, is the product of ‘lean thinking’ concepts “across all aspects of the processes from engineering, logistics, construction to operation. 

Epho’s head of operations Luke Butterworth said that in order to “meet Aldi’s stringent requirements and maintain its award-winning customer experience at all times, the actual installation needed to happen in a ‘ghost-like’ manner with absolutely minimal disturbance to the normal operation of the Aldi store.” 

This ‘ghost-like’ manner also meant that Epho could continue its installations during Covid-19, its refined process meaning the rollout could continue with safe adherence to health guidelines and keep 150 Epho employees and contractors across the country in work. “We even hired new employees during the pandemic,” boasts Hartley. 

By the end of 2020, the Aldi/Epho partnership will also be boasting, boasting 24 MW of on-site solar energy, an achievement few would have predicted back in 2015 when Epho installed Aldi Australia’s first on-site solar system at its store in Tweed Heads, NSW. 

Offsite generation

On top of its long-term commitment to solar generation on-site at its properties nationwide, Aldi Australia has also signed two 10-year PPAs with the Dundonnell Wind Farm in Victoria and the Collector Wind Farm in the New South Wales Southern Tablelands. Aldi will purchase 6% and 19.4% of clean energy generated by these wind farms, respectively. 

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