The Clean Energy Council’s 2020 Solar Design and Installation Awards focused on PV systems that helped owners of commercial and industrial enterprises cut their ties with polluting generation in creative ways.


Over 240kW

WINNER

Luke Butterworth, Marton Treuer, Alvin Lee, Tim Shield, Cameron Evans and Matthias Huchel, Epho

Logistics facility, Horsley Park, NSW
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This 1.7MW rooftop solar installation is significant for using Epho’s Bright Thinkers Power Station technology, which allows the system owner to trade energy generated by the system on the NEM. Without the technology the system might only have been half the size, the installer says.

The project aims to unlock further investment and installation of solar PV on the entire usable roof space of commercial and industrial buildings, Epho says. “This compares to the present practice where current rooftop solar PV systems are constrained in size to align with tenant’s day-time demand minimising any export. The Bright Thinkers Power Station also opens up the opportunity to use excess solar power from industrial sites to off-set against consumption of city office buildings that don’t have on-site solar power.”

Epho worked with local network Endeavour, which it says was open to working on solutions to integrate large C&I systems that are professionally operated on their network. As Endeavour gathers data on the system’s use Epho says it will help other networks understand the value in similar applications.

The installer expects system sizes will increase quickly over the next couple of years and is planning projects in the 1-3MW range that will run as professionally operated power stations. Over time it expects to be working with clients on battery storage systems, EV-charging stations, energy management and other services.

FINALIST

David Adams, Benjamin Murray, Damien Groves and Graeme Malone, AGL

Pernod Ricard Winery, South Australia

No-one likes getting into a hot car after they’ve been strolling around a vineyard, so Pernod Ricard Winemakers exercised precision logic when they approved a clean energy project with installer AGL that included a solar car park. The employee car park at the Rowland Flat winery was the final stage of a 3MW solar system at the winemakers’ two Barossa Valley wineries.

The 10,000 PV modules installed at the Rowland Flat and Tanunda wineries are expected to generate more than 4GWh of renewable electricity in the first year, AGL says. The car park includes electric vehicle charging facilities.

FINALIST

Matt Alexander and Xiaoxiao Fu, Smart Commercial Solar

Sydney warehouse, NSW

Sometimes you’ll come across a problem that only a helicopter will solve. In the case of this warehouse in Sydney, it was decided a chopper was the only feasible lifting solution to satisfy a 12-week deadline. “The coordination of works was the most important thing,” says Smart Commercial Solar general manager Maximilian Stenning. “We had to lift on the weekend on a day there were no other trades onsite.”

To start, pallets of equipment were set out on the ground and pre-slung so that the helicopter could pick up and drop off continuously. “We worked two-to-three pallets ahead of the helicopter to ensure that it never caught up with us while pre-slinging,” Stenning says.

The customer had entered its first C&I retail electricity arrangement with one of its tenants, so it was important the job was delivered on time. “Ease of operation and maintenance was a key factor in the design for this build,” Stenning says.

Solar has done a great job in reducing daytime energy consumption across the NEM, but it has also started to impact its own success into the future. “A declining daytime price of energy will make traditional grid connected solar systems more difficult to stack up from a business case standpoint,” Stenning says. “As the daytime energy price gets cheaper, solar and other businesses need to look at other technologies to solve the problem of prices on the shoulder sides of daytime consumption.”

With the majority of new entrants in the renewable space being either financiers or tech businesses, he says it’s easy to see the opportunity is outside of simply putting panels on rooftops. “It’s about looking outside and coming out from behind a customer’s meter, where the real opportunity lies,” he says.


30-240kW

WINNER

Matthew Linney and Jarrod Shepherd, Autonomous Energy

Sydney CBD

The brief for the winning entry by Autonomous Energy was to get a minimum of 134kW of solar on a relatively small roof to meet the project’s Green Star target and to incorporate a rooftop garden. Modules had to be elevated and the rows spaced far enough apart to allow the greenery to flourish.

There was also a big focus on waterproofing the roof, which was complicated by the growing medium covering the roof surface. The installer minimised the attachment points to reduce the points of waterproofing, but this introduced a lot of complexity in the mounting frame design.

“There are times when boldly displaying solar gives very attractive results, such as this project, but there are other times when a great result can be achieved by subtly blending solar into a design,” says Autonomous Energy CEO Matthew Linney. “The important thing is for solar to be seen as a design element for architects and designers to work with rather than an ugly necessity to be hidden from view.”

Linney concedes shading from neighbouring buildings was an issue the designers had to manage through careful system planning, electrical design and component selection. “The result is a low-rise building in the CBD that is generating a significant amount of electricity from its rooftop solar while also utilising that roof space for other services, most importantly the rooftop garden.”

Linney expects the next five years will see more focus on optimising realised financial returns, which will require more attention to the long-term system performance in addition to the existing focus on initial cost. “This will see more emphasis on system monitoring, diagnostics, maintenance and verification,” he says. “Importantly these will need to be considered at the design stage rather than be afterthoughts upon project completion.”

FINALIST

Christopher Hackett, Gem Energy

Eco resort, Brisbane/Gold Coast hinterland

An eco-lodge is a far different proposition to enormous industrial rooftops. How do you do solar in the bush? “With great patience!” says GEM Energy principal electrician Christopher Hackett, who says the install schedule for this 56kW/138kWh off-grid solar PV and battery storage system fell right in the middle of one of the worst bushfire seasons in history.

“Every precaution was taken to install safely in the middle of a national park, but there were multiple times when tools were packed up and blokes rushed out to safety,” Hackett says.

Storage made perfect sense for the site, he says, because it is hard to access – especially after heavy rain. “Having on-site storage allows the site to operate all year around,” he says. “The site is in the middle of a national park, so carrying hazardous substances like diesel should be limited if it cannot be avoided.” Park management further imposed a “quiet time”, which meant a generator could not be run during feeding times and throughout the night. 

“Onsite battery storage solves all those problems,” he says. “Explaining that to the customer was not difficult as the customer is very invested in green technology.” With individual module optimization the system is working well, even on cloudy days.

FINALIST

Alvin Lee and Simba Kuestler, Solgen Energy

Woolworths store in Orange, NSW
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Why not say it with solar panels? That was Solgen’s thinking when it suggested to its client Woolworths a Big W logo might be a nice touch in its Solar Rollout. “It was an exciting and creative way to highlight the good work Woolworths and Solgen were doing together,” says Simba Kuestler, the Solgen project engineer who worked on the job. “It was a balance to find the right roof size with the right store consumption for the right sized logo. It was important that these factors lined up otherwise the business case may not have stacked up or the logo would lose its definition if the panel layout wasn’t dense enough.”

Since it’s energisation the system has been generating at least as much as other 100kW systems in the same regions despite the unique layout and varying orientations, he says. “So far, the store has consumed all generated energy on site offsetting up to 20% of the store’s daytime consumption during solar hours.”

Kuestler expects the next five years will see a large increase in battery storage combined with PV as the grid shifts towards localised microgrids. “To me, generation capacity is not an issue for a sustainable grid,” he says. “It is the capture and storage of energy for grid smoothing and use at times when renewable generation is lower.”