Telstra has switched on the largest grid-connected solar power system the company has ever deployed, in a move that is expected to herald the adoption of more solar PV and battery technology across its infrastructure portfolio.

The company is also establishing a “dedicated project team” tasked with improving energy efficiency and identifying opportunities to use solar and battery storage. <

The team will be led by Ben Burge, who is joining Telstra from online power company Powershop.

Cynthia Whelan, Telstra’s Group Executive, International & New Businesses, said: “As a company with a large portfolio of physical infrastructure across Australia, we see some real opportunities to use technology to become more efficient at managing our energy use. Solar energy and improvements in battery technology will be an area of particular focus, and we are looking at potential partnerships with energy and technology companies as well as our enterprise customers.”

As an example of Telstra’s commitment to renewable energy, Ms Whelan cites two recent solar installations, at Telstra’s Deer Park and Lyndhurst exchange buildings in Victoria. Both buildings have had 30 kW solar PV systems installed, with the panels expected to produce around 40,000 kWh of energy every year. Telstra has not disclosed the designer and installer of these projects.

Telstra Property Executive Director John Romano said he envisioned the latest installation being a watershed moment for the company, with more solar panels likely to be installed in the coming months.

“We have a long history of using solar panels, mainly at our small rural exchange buildings as the primary source of power where the electricity grid is unavailable,” Mr Romano said.

“This is the first time we are using solar power systems at this scale in a metropolitan area, and could very well change the way we power our network in the future

With approximately 120 large exchange Telstra buildings across the Melbourne metropolitan area alone, Mr Romano said there was a significant opportunity to continue reducing the company’s environmental impact. Exchange buildings house the equipment necessary to provide landline phones, ADSL internet, NBN and mobile phone telecommunications – including wireless data.

“We will continue to assess and monitor how successful these panels are in reducing costs and the impact these buildings can have on the environment

“In the coming years, we will look to further expand the rollout of solar panels to ensure that we can continue to meet the targets set out in our environmental action plan.” <

Move into home energy market

Ms Whelan also said Telstra was exploring opportunities in the home energy market, including offering services such as smart energy management and monitoring to its residential customers.

“Telstra connects more Australians to the things they love and enjoy than anyone else, and the number and diversity of things to connect is rapidly increasing,” said Ms Whelan, citing devices such as smart meters, smart light bulbs and connected white goods.

“As part of being a world class technology company empowering people to connect, we are looking at the opportunities to help customers monitor and manage many different aspects of the home, including energy. This is all part of delivering what our customers want in an increasingly connected world.”