A joint venture between Australia’s largest commercial and industrial real estate owner and a renewable energy company is hoped to spur a network of rooftop solar farms and grid-scale batteries, which will offset power usage by manufacturers.
Former Ford and General Motors Holden sites in NSW, Victoria and South Australia will be the first sites to be developed by CEP Energy, with the goal of installing rooftop solar being deployed at thousands of sites around the country.
Chairman of property giant Pelligra Group, Ross Pelligra, is spearheading the initiative. His organisation, which owns 10 million square metres of rooftop space, will sell discounted energy directly to its tenants – some of those being manufacturers – and to sell excess power to the grid.
The scheme is also intended to keep industrial tenants onshore, as some have left the country recently due to concerns about the cost and reliability of energy in Australia.
Mr Pelligra said the deal made commercial sense for the group, and as manufacturing was becoming increasingly automated, cheap reliable power was becoming more important than large cheap workforces.
“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 told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“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.”
If industrial sites can provide that power he believes Australia can attract more manufacturers to open or re-open plants.
Former NSW Premier Morris Iemma, who is now the CEP Energy chairman, said large scale industrial buildings where perfect for solar energy projects as they provide large amounts of space close to cities and industrial centres and don’t need expensive grid connections to be built.
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.