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Move to build grid-scale solar on industrial rooftops across Australia

CEP Energy chairman Morris Iemma on the roof of Narellan Town Centre in south-west Sydney with the centre's manager Brad Page, and owners, Arnold Vitocco and Tony Perich.

CEP Energy chairman Morris Iemma on the roof of Narellan Town Centre in south-west Sydney with the centre’s manager Brad Page, and owners, Arnold Vitocco and Tony Perich.

Eventually rooftop solar could be deployed at thousands of sites around the country, but the first grid-scale sites to be developed include the former Ford plant in Geelong, Victoria, the General Motors Holden plant in Elizabeth, South Australia, and another undisclosed site in the Hunter Valley, NSW.

Within five years CEP Energy aims to build capacity to generate 1500 megawatts of power, with 1000 megawatts of battery storage – enough to power around 600,000 homes.

By comparison the ageing Liddell coal-fired power station in the Hunter Valley has a power capacity of 1680 MW, while South Australia’s “big battery” has a capacity of 100 MW.

According to Mr Iemma, while Australia leads the world in domestic rooftop solar, it lags in larger industrial and commercial arrays, in part because property management companies do not have the expertise or interest in using their roof space for renewables.

Another Victorian industrial site set for solar development is this one in Laverton North.

Another Victorian industrial site set for solar development is this one in Laverton North.Credit:Jason South

Because Pelligra owns so much property around the country, that disconnect has been overcome in this deal, he said. CEP Energy also recently finalised a 30-year, $40 million rooftop power plant and onsite battery agreement with the Narellan Town Centre in Sydney’s south-west, which is jointly owned by the Vitocco and Perich families.

Mr Pelligra said the deal made commercial sense for the group, but was also in line with the family company’s outlook.

“One of the things the family has always believed in is that we need a safe, clean environment to continue as a company and as a community,” he said.

“Apart from doing the right thing for the planet, we are actually helping our tenants. They will not just get cheaper power but they will get reassurance of reliability on those days there is a shortage in the grid.”

He said that as manufacturing was becoming increasingly automated, cheap reliable power was becoming more important than large cheap workforces. If industrial sites can provide that power he believes Australia can attract more manufacturers to open or re-open plants.

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Chris McLean, a PwC partner who has provided advice to CEP Energy, said the project had benefits over other renewable and battery projects due to its scale and location.

“Its scale is comparable to, if not bigger than, traditional solar and wind farms, meaning its cost to produce and store renewable energy is relatively cheap. It is certainly cheaper than other rooftop businesses,” he said.

“The location of its assets means that it avoids the grid issues plaguing [traditional solar and wind farms/utility scale solar and wind farms] and it delivers energy efficiently – energy is being consumed where it has been generated.”

Earlier this week Origin Energy Limited announced it had taken further steps in its plan to build a battery at Eraring Power Station in NSW, with an overall capacity of up to 700 MW and a dispatch duration of four hours.

Origin executive Greg Jarvis said deploying a battery at Eraring supports the company’s decarbonisation objectives and recent NSW energy policy announcements.

“A large-scale battery at Eraring will help us better support renewable energy and maintain reliable supply for customers, by having long-duration storage ready to dispatch into the grid at times when renewable sources are not available.”

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