Banking on solar power

April 14, 2018

Australian business solar power use is set to see a 400 per cent increase since 2013.

Solar power usage has increased by more than 400 per cent by Australian business.

Executive general manager of the Clean Energy Regulator, Mark Williamson

Australian businesses investing in solar power for their own use will see a massive 400 per cent increase this year, according to the regulator.

And Shepparton businesses are joining in, with hundreds of businesses having installed substantial systems, ranging from 10 to 500 kilowatts.

Clean Energy Regulator executive general manager Mark Williamson said the growth of businesses investing in solar plants had been underestimated.

Two years ago Mr Williamson predicted commercial and industrial solar sector would be cumulatively putting on a large-scale renewable power station every year.

That milestone is set to be reached this year.

‘‘It’s really taking off ... the capacity in applications for commercial and industrial-sized systems between 100kW and 1mW (for 2018) is going to smash last year,’’ Mr Williamson said.

‘‘In Shepparton, you now have five power stations (over 100kW) with a capacity of 1.94mW, that’s equivalent to about 400 households.’’

The Greater Shepparton region has a further 431 installations between 10 and 100kW, with a total capacity of 9.66mW, with more in the pipeline.

SCS Plastics business operations manager Andrew O’Sullivan said the installation of a 300kW plant had been a game changer.

‘‘We’re quite a large consumer of power (and) we have noticed a significant reduction in our power bills, particularly over the summer months. We’ve seen a reduction of between $4000 and $6000 a month,’’ Mr O’Sullivan said.

‘‘The solar is basically driving our business for three to four hours a day.’’

When the Wheeler St, Shepparton, business closes its doors on weekends its solar plant continues to work, so 100 per cent of the generated power goes into the electricity grid, bringing in further financial gains.

Mr O’Sullivan said SCS Plastic’s plant had been built with the help of a low-interest loan, sourced through the Greater Shepparton City Council.

SCS Plastic’s decision to invest in solar was a purely commercial decision.

The price of power and the skyrocketing percentage of total spend led to the investment, Mr O’Sullivan said.

And that investment is being copied across the country as the Clean Energy Regulator is inundated with applications, outpacing the growth in household solar installations.

‘‘Obviously there’s been a lot of focus on electricity prices and I think a lot of businesses as well as households have been looking at that,’’ Mr Williamson said.

‘‘It’s really a combination of electricity prices going up and cost of systems going down.

‘‘While we’re still seeing very steady growth in the household level, the economies of scale for industrial systems are much better.

‘‘We are looking at an exponential growth rate ... Australia has the biggest penetration of rooftop solar in the world (and) the headline story here is that business is embracing solar in a really big way.’’

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