Home Retail Sun-powered dreams of net zero in retail

Sun-powered dreams of net zero in retail

  • September 06, 2023
  • by Property Australia
Scentre Group's Craig Parr - Head of Energy & Renewables, Max Roberts - Group GM Finance - Operations, and Nick Opperman - Facilities Manager at Westfield Hornsby, NSW

Retail landlords are increasingly looking to harness the power of the sun to help reach their net zero goals. 

Scentre Group recently completed rooftop solar installations at Westfield Fountain Gate and Westfield Knox. Rooftop solar installations at Westfield Hornsby and Westfield Tuggerah will be completed in Q4 2023. 

Scentre Group Head of Energy & Renewables, Craig Parr said investing in onsite renewable electricity generation infrastructure was one of the initiatives that will contribute to the group’s net zero pathway. 

“In 2022 we generated 7,806 MWh from solar installations at Westfield Carousel, Westfield Coomera, Westfield Kotara, Westfield Marion and Westfield Plenty Valley.  

“When Westfield Hornsby and Westfield Tuggerah are operational, together with recently completed onsite solar projects at Westfield Fountain Gate and Westfield Knox, these four projects will more than double the Group’s solar generation capacity from 5.9MW to 12.2MW. 

“In addition to generating renewable electricity through onsite solar, renewable electricity procurement and reducing energy use through our Next Gen Building Analytics initiative and LED lighting installations, will contribute to our emissions reduction over time.” 

The group also has an agreement with CleanCo, the Queensland Government owned renewables, low emissions and hydro company, to source 100 per cent renewable electricity to power the group’s Queensland portfolio from 2025 followed in August.

Sentinel Property Group is also expanding its solar energy presence in Queensland with a $4.7 million solar roof project underway at Mackay’s Caneland Central shopping center. 

This marks the third Queensland property of Sentinel to adopt solar, following a $2 million solar upgrade at DFO Cairns and a significant solar system at the River Quays office building in Townsville CBD.

Warren Ebert, the CEO of Sentinel, emphasised their commitment to renewable energy and said the Caneland Central installation is their most extensive solar project thus far.

“We’ll be installing more than 8,000 solar panels on the roof at Caneland Central, with the project expected to be completed by the end of this year,” he said.

“This installation is expected to produce around 15,000 kilowatts of power each day and result in substantial electricity cost savings and generate annual income of about $1.5m for the centre. Furthermore, the installation is projected to enhance the asset value of Caneland Central by circa $20m.”

Coles are also getting in on the action, aiming to install 20 megawatts of solar panels on top of 100 stores across the country, with batteries to be installed at one third of the stores to capture and store excess renewable electricity generated on-site in a partnership with Origin.

“Over the next three years, we expect to install solar panels on 100 Coles supermarkets and liquor stores. These stores will have on average up to 20 per cent of their electricity needs met by renewable electricity generated on-site,” Coles Head of Energy Jane Mansfield said.

“Not only will this investment in renewables help us reduce our emissions, it will also lower our operational costs and allow us to meet more of our energy needs from our own on-site solar generation.”

Woolworths is also installing solar onto its distribution and shopping centre rooftops with 215 sites becoming solar powered to date, with the group’s rooftop capacity exceeding 35MW. In May last year its Conder store in the ACT became its 150 Woolworths supermarket generating electricity from solar.

Region Group, the neighborhood shopping center giant, also has big plans for solar. It has 14.9MW of solar PV installed or under construction of its 25MW solar PV target by FY26. It has a commitment to install 5.1MW of solar in FY24.

In FY22, the group invested $11 million in solar generation projects, and completed 6.22MW of solar generation capacity across six sites in Western Australia: Stirlings Central, Currambine, Warnbro, Treendale, Kalamunda and Kwinana. Its installation in Kwinana is the largest rooftop solar installation in the state.

The group is expanding its solar program on a national scale. In July last year, they launched an additional nine centers: Central Highlands Marketplace, Mudgeeraba Market, Annandale Central, Marketplace Warner, Jimboomba Junction, Oxenford Village, and Brookwater Village in Queensland, as well as Bentons Square and The Gateway in Victoria. This added 5.3MW of solar generation capacity to its existing 3.4MW capacity across nine sites, resulting in a total current solar capacity of 14.9MW spread across 24 sites.

A further 13 centres are earmarked for solar installations.

Vicinity Centres is also using solar as means to meet its Net Zero Carbon by 2030 target. The group has reduced its energy intensity by 27 per cent and carbon intensity by 38 per cent since FY16 supported by investment in solar, according to its 2022 Sustainability Report.

In FY18, the group committed to a $73 million investment in on-site solar generation.

Since the first solar panels were installed at Castle Plaza, SA in December 2018, the group have installed more than 32.85 MW worth of solar capacity across 22 centres. This includes the addition of 1.55 MW at Chadstone, VIC, 0.92 MW at The Glen, VIC and 0.78 MW at Nepean Village, NSW during FY22.

Its onsite solar program has displaced about 10 per cent of its energy demand from the grid and has the capacity to generate around 46,215 MWh per year – the equivalent of powering 8,099 average Australian homes.

Earlier this year the group announced that two of its centres would be installing battery storage systems to reduce its on-site energy costs and provide services into the grid in a pilot program with Enel X.

In it shopping centre retail portfolio, Charter Hall has over 18.5MW of solar and 11MWh of batteries installed, operated through a power purchase agreement with Clean Peak, according to its latest sustainability report.

From 2025, Charter Hall will have access to the renewable electricity and will be able to recognise the renewable electricity supply to the common area of its shopping centres.

Where the group consumes more electricity than the renewable electricity available from its shopping centre roofs, it will use its market linked renewable PPA with ENGIE to achieve 100 per cent renewable electricity target by 2025.