Castle Plaza’s Solar Shaded Car Park
In late 2018, Vicinity Centres (Vicinity) installed a 548kWh Sungrow Samsung storage battery at the Castle Plaza shopping centre in Adelaide. This was an Australian retail industry first and undertaken as part of Vicinity’s $73million investment in renewable energy initiatives across Australia, including embedding renewable energy innovations across their shopping centre portfolio.
Vicinity introduced a national solar and battery program to help reduce its exposure to volatile energy market conditions, strengthen energy resilience in communities and deliver improved sustainability outcomes.
Following is a detailed look at the battery and solar program introduced at Castle Plaza.
What are the key facts and figures for the Castle Plaza renewable energy program?
- 2.4 megawatts (MW) solar capacity installed at the centre by the end of 2019
- Over 430 solar shaded bays available for customer parking
- Over 6,600 solar panels laid across rooftop and car park (that’s over 12kms of solar!)
- Expected that over 50% of centre energy use will be produced by the solar system
- EV charging stations to be installed in early 2020
- One of Australia’s largest retail solar programs
- Australian retail property’s first storage battery program
How does the storage battery work with the existing solar program at Castle Plaza?
In simple terms, when the centre generates energy from the roof and car park solar system, the connected battery can store any excess energy (that can’t be used by the centre at that time) to utilise it when needed. This is particularly helpful in reducing grid consumption at busy times and reducing overall demand on the national grid, which in turn, improves local energy resilience. To break it down further the battery performs the following tasks…
- Absorbs excess power generated during the middle of the day to utilise later in the day when there is less solar production
- System balancing – when grid conditions change, the battery can release or absorb energy to ensure the stability of the grid is maintained and smooth any impact of fluctuations in solar PV generation production; for instance, when there is intermittent cloud cover it can absorb the peaks and fill in during the troughs
- Maintain quality of power production throughout the day when the centre uses most of its power from its solar supply
Why are Vicinity trialling a storage battery at Castle Plaza?
Castle Plaza is a great test site due to several factors including centre size; the large solar array installed on the roof and in the car park; an upgraded behind the meter network; a strong network connection and existing building management system. Combined, these elements allow Vicinity to test and learn from the connected energy platform which helps inform other renewable energy decisions for the business.
What do Vicinity hope to learn from the trial?
Primarily, the trial will help Vicinity understand how effective battery technology is at further maximising renewable energy outcomes. This will help determine how Vicinity could use similar battery technology at other shopping centres as part of any future energy strategy and solar program growth.
How does the battery help the centre and Castle Plaza community?
Battery use allows Vicinity to install larger solar arrays and increase self-consumption of the solar energy generated while ensuring the intermittency of any generation is carefully managed. At Castle Plaza, this provided a gateway to install over 430 solar shaded car parking bays.
In terms of benefiting the wider community, combined with local solar resource the battery supplied 100% of centre energy use during recent heatwave. This ensured grid capacity was available for other energy users in the local area. A great outcome for all.
How has the battery performed so far?
Since commissioning the battery at the start of November 2019, it has provided significant assistance in managing network demand. This is achieved by injecting stored power into the centre load to reduce peak loads from centre operations and equipment use. This outcome benefits the centre, its shoppers and the local community.
What is the future of battery technology at Vicinity?
Vicinity’s industry-leading solar program is creating a backbone for further integrated energy innovations and investment that will deliver an ‘energy community’ at, and around, our centres.
These energy communities will be built on complementary renewable energy initiatives such as solar energy generation, energy storage (such as battery), waste to energy and electric vehicle charging.
And, as the economics of energy storage change via reductions in outright battery purchase costs and increased revenue opportunities, it’s likely that more centres in the Vicinity portfolio can benefit from this technology.
Vicinity have also partnered with Australia’s leading blockchain experts, Power Ledger, to turn the solar energy generated and stored into a valuable saleable commodity. Power Ledger’s blockchain technology may open the door back to the grid for real-time energy transactions with residents and businesses that connect to a Vicinity network.
What happens with the battery after it’s useful life?
While Vicinity expect the battery at Castle Plaza to have a long and productive life cycle, there is a plan for its eventual removal and disposal.
The Li-ion battery waste contains a whole host of valuable materials like cobalt, lithium and graphite that can be recovered and 95% of these components can be turned into new batteries or used in other industries.
What are the benefits of battery for other business owners?
Storage batteries are likely to become increasingly valuable to business owners as the technology and renewable energy market matures in Australia. Some potential ‘future proofing’ benefits Vicinity has identified include:
Business growth can create a need for additional power consumption and network capacity that may require costly infrastructure upgrades. Introducing a solar and battery system can help mitigate this issue by utilising more of the power generated on-site and reducing the requirement for network upgrades.
In extreme weather conditions, stored battery energy can provide an emergency backup solution that ensures the business can continue its operations until grid power is restored.
Battery can provide a gateway to associated renewable energy technologies, such as the introduction of electric vehicle chargers at a business premises. At Castle Plaza, EV chargers are being installed in early 2020.
Battery and solar systems could unlock additional revenue streams, such as on-selling excess stored energy to other users and using battery inverters to respond to price signals and increase or reduce site usage.
Assuming an average Australian home consumes about 30kWh per day, the Castle Plaza battery, with a full charge, can power that home for over two weeks independently from the grid.