Unless you’re currently reading this article cross-legged on a bare floor, you’ve probably been to an Ikea store at some point in your life. Moreover, you’ll be able to attest to the sheer size of an Ikea store, an expanse that makes the Swedish Norrland seem claustrophobic, this realisation probably hit you at about lunchtime on the second day of crossing the car park toward the door.
Thankfully, Ikea Adelaide and Planet Ark Power have come together to make good use of these vast tracts of furnished wilderness – by constructing what Planet Art Power is calling Australia’s largest grid-connected commercial microgrid of its kind.
A significant investment of this kind is in line with Ikea’s global aspirations to achieve zero-emission home deliveries by 2025 and becoming ‘climate positive’ by 2030. By Ikea’s definition, ‘climate positive’ means not only the elimination of CO2 emissions, but also the generation of more renewable energy than the company uses annually.
Ikea Adelaide leading the way
Ikea Adelaide is showing itself to be in the advance guard of Ikea’s global clean energy transformation project, as the store is confident of operating with 100% renewably energy by 2025 while dispensing surplus energy into the South Australian grid.
Indeed, as Ikea Australia CEO and Chief Sustainability Officer, Jan Gardberg, put it: “Our ambition is to be the first mover and inspire other Ikea stores to install larger solar installations, batteries and digital solutions. Planet Ark Power’s eleXsys energy management system will support the balancing of the electricity grid not just on stores in Australia, but across the Ikea network around the world.”
The construction of this microgrid sees the coming together of Planet Ark Power, the South Australian Government, SA Power Networks, and Epic Energy, and in this case, it appears we’re looking at many hands making light work.
The project is separated into two distinct phases. Phase One will see 1.2 MW of solar installed atop Ikea Adelaide’s expansive rooftop coupled with a 3.4 MWh on-site CATL battery managed by Planet Ark Power’s eleXsys energy management system for surplus export. The resultant microgrid, owned and operated by Epic Energy, will supply more than 70% of the store’s energy needs.
Tying it all up in a nice bow the system will also feature electric vehicle (EV) chargers which can be used by customers, staff, and Ikea’s growing electric delivery fleet.
Planet Ark Power’s Director of Stakeholder Relations and Strategy, Stephen Robertson, told pv magazine Australia that while any returns on the export of surplus energy to the grid are of course “subject to market pricing of both the spot market and FCAS markets,” the team estimates that “310 MWh/y of stored energy will be exported to the SA Power Network at optimal times.
Planet Art Power’s Rachael Ridley told pv magazine Australia that the company believes this grid-connected urban microgrid to be unique as no comparable system provides “the comprehensive range of services and solutions that the Ikea eleXsys Microgrid provides.”
The big standout is of course the 3.3 MW on-site CATL battery which, thanks to a single connection to the distribution grid and the dynamic management of reactive power (VAr) is abe to maximise exports of surplus energy, ensuring the viability decentralised generation, what Epic Energy’s Chief Executive Officer, Clive D’Cruz, called “the foundation for a sustainable new energy model for Australia.”
In fact, ‘viability’ is somewhat of an understatement, as Ridley says that the unique capabilities provided by the eleXysy Microgrid, such as its unique energy services contract, its eEMS behind the meter system, and its battery’s flexible algorithms able to respond dynamically to the market, mean that the system itself is 10x larger than what would otherwise have been installed.
“By providing voltage and frequency control services to overcome curtailment restrictions, commercial scale DER solutions can be designed to maximise the generation of clean energy, instead of only sizing systems to meet a site’s own energy requirements,” continued Ridley. “The Ikea eleXsys Microgrid allows Ikea to get closer to achieving net zero energy consumption, while strengthening the project’s economic returns, adding resiliency to the grid, and generating additional clean energy for the neighbouring community.”
It is the resilience to the grid that saw the South Australian Government’s Renewable Technology Fund provide $1.95 million for the project. SA Minister for Energy and Mining Dan van Holst Pellekaan said the project allows “Ikea to help SA Power Networks to manage the local network to improve the quality of power to nearby homes and businesses.”
Those who are still wandering the plains of the car park under the relentless South Australian sun will be glad to hear that the project has not forgotten their plight. Not happy with only meeting 70% of their energy needs, Ikea Adelaide’s Stage Two will see another estimated 800 kW of solar panels hosted on the shade structures that will cover the car park. “With this additional solar,” said Ridley, “the site will be 100% powered by clean energy, with any surplus energy being fed into the grid.”
Stage Two is set for a completion date in 2025, and will see Planet Ark Power design wooden framed solar carports with eleXsys technology integrated for onsite EV charging. “We are still in the design phase,” adjoined Robertson, “but sustainability is the key focus of any materials used.”
Ultimately then, this is a significant project by all measures, setting a standard for decentralised energy practice in the commercial and industrial sector while cutting emissions, and earning Ikea even more revenue. Moreover, for all us Allen key warriors making the long march across the car park and using the tool as a flint to start a fire for overnight camp, we will be thankful for the shade and the chance to recharge our batteries.
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