Commercial solar power has massive potential in Australia. The abundance of sunshine guarantees that the solar array will be productive, and the high cost of electricity for businesses makes self-generated energy very valuable! Consider that each kilowatt-hour from commercial solar is one kWh not purchased from local power retailers.
Australia Post have taken the lead in commercial solar power deployment, and by the end of 2017 they had completed the largest rooftop solar array in Australia (at the time of completion). The project is located at their sorting centre in Chullora, Sydney, with a total installed capacity of 2.1 MW. To put that into perspective, consider that the array covers a total rooftop area above 11,000 square metres. The clean energy it generates has an environmental benefit equivalent to removing 468 cars from circulation, preventing 2,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere each year.
Although Australia Post invested $3 million in the project, they are expecting to save more than $800,000 per year with the clean energy produced, bringing the payback period below 4 years. When you consider that solar panels are typically rated for around 25 years, Australia Post are getting around two decades of free electricity after the payback period!
Although this commercial solar power system is the largest deployed by Australia Post at the time of completion, Australia Post are not newcomers in the world of clean energy. The 2.1-MW photovoltaic array at the Chullora site is actually their 49th commercial solar system, and they are now generating more than 5 million kWh per year across all their sites. They have already saved over $40 million in power bills by generating their own electricity with commercial solar.
Australia Post plan to continue deploying commercial solar in the foreseeable future. Equipping 49 of their buildings is already an impressive achievement, but consider they have more than 1,100 facilities across the nation. They have also started analysing the feasibility of energy storage to complement commercial solar, which would allow them to run day and night with power from the sun.
It is important to note that Australia Post are also part of the Melbourne Renewable Energy Project (MREP), a consortium of public and private institutions that uses bulk purchasing power to get preferential electricity prices. Currently, one of their main initiatives is providing support for the proposed Crowlands Wind Farm in Victoria. The wind power project has a planned capacity of 79.95 MW, with 50 turbines rated at 2.05 MW each. Once it is completed, the MREP plan to purchase 88 million kWh per year through a long-term Power Purchase Agreement (PPA).
Australia Post are true leaders in commercial solar power, deploying rooftop PV arrays at many of their facilities, and ensuring that the electricity they purchase from external sources is clean as well. Their success proves how Australian companies and public institutions can greatly reduce electricity expenses with self-generation.