Work begins on huge Australian rooftop solar array

rooftop solar

The first panels have been installed at one of Australia’s largest rooftop solar arrays in Adelaide.

By Andrew Spence

The 7400 panels are being fitted to the 5-hectare roof of the Tonsley Innovation District, which will have a total installed capacity of 2.34MW.

There are plans to increase the solar capacity at the site to as much as 6MW and over 20,000 solar panels as the district grows over time. The solar installation will work in conjunction with on-site battery storage and smart technologies as part of Enwave Australia’s Tonsley District Energy Scheme.

The panels are being installed by Tonsley-based ZEN Energy on behalf of Enwave Australia, the owner and operator of the scheme.

The District Energy Scheme will generate at least 30 per cent of Tonsley’s energy demand, including business and residential, from renewable sources.

Businesses at Tonsley will have the choice to buy their electricity from Enwave Australia at competitive market rates and support the site’s shift to cleaner energy, or buy from the energy retailer of their choice.

Enwave Australia will invest approximately $40 million over a 50-year period for battery storage, photovoltaics, smart technologies and electrical assets.

rooftop solar
Minister for Energy and Mining Dan van Holst Pellekaan (left) overlooking the Tonsley roof with Enwave Australia Chief Executive Officer Cameron Evans and ZEN Energy Chief Executive Officer Marc Barrington (right)

Minister for Energy and Mining Dan van Holst Pellekaan (left) overlooking the Tonsley roof with Enwave Australia Chief Executive Officer Cameron Evans and ZEN Energy Chief Executive Officer Marc Barrington (right).

The scheme will later expand to include the provision of recycled water for non-drinking purposes and natural gas for residences in Tonsley Village.

Enwave Australia Chief Executive Officer Cameron Evans said the scheme had been designed to ensure customers within the district benefited from the reliable, cost effective and renewable supply of energy.

“The rooftop solar installation is a key component of this system, which will be integrated into the wider scheme to ensure all customers benefit from the installation,” he said.

“We are proud to be part of this scheme as another key step in the establishment of Tonsley as a leading innovation district.”

Tonsley is on the site of a former Mitsubishi car manufacturing plant in Adelaide’s southern suburbs. It is Australia’s first innovation hub and brings together advanced manufacturing companies, university STEM programs, renewable energy leaders and hi-tech pacesetters in the one precinct.

South Australian Minister for Energy and Mining Dan van Holst Pellekaan said the District Energy Scheme demonstrated South Australia’s leadership in the renewable energy sector.

“The solar energy installation will offset as much as 3500 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year over its lifetime and is part of Tonsley’s commitment to sustainability and innovation, as well as its Six Star Green Star Communities Rating.

“The system will optimise solar energy generation for the energy demands of the entire Tonsley precinct, enhancing security of energy supply and providing competitive energy pricing to all customer classes, including commercial and residential.”

ZEN Energy is a division of SIMEC Energy Australia, which is part of Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance.

ZEN Energy Chief Executive Officer Marc Barrington said the solar array was a national landmark energy project.

“The array will work hand in hand with a range of other technologies in the Tonsley District Energy Scheme to showcase how the benefits of renewable energy can be integrated across an entire community, which we’re really excited about,” he said.

The scheme will later expand to include the provision of recycled water for non-drinking purposes and natural gas for residences in Tonsley Village.

An $11.4 million hydrogen park is also being developed at Tonsley as part of South Australia’s Hydrogen Action Plan. It will utilise a 1.25MW Siemens electrolyser to produce 100 per cent hydrogen from electricity as the first Australian demonstration project of its scale and size. By mid 2020 small quantities of renewable hydrogen will be produced and blended into the local gas distribution network.

South Australia already leads the nation in the uptake of wind energy and roof-top solar with renewable sources accounting for more than 50 per cent of the electricity generated in the state.