JSE-listed real estate investment trust South African Corporate Real Estate (Sacre) will invest more than R30-million to install rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) plants to help curb ever-rising electricity tariffs at its malls and reduce their carbon footprint.
Sacre retail asset manager Carmen Collison on Friday said the ongoing multimillion-rand investment in solar PV by Sacre put the malls on par with some of the most advanced malls around the globe.
It also showed that, although large regional malls with their large underused rooftops were probably best suited to large-scale solar power generation, the installation of PV panels at smaller centres also delivered substantial returns.
Collison said Sacre had invested R26.2-million in solar to date, with 2 MWh installed. The future capital expenditure spend would be about R33.5-million, which would see an additional 1 MWh installed.
Among the malls that are going solar are Coachman’s Crossing shopping centre, in Bryanston; Town Square shopping centre, in Weltevredenpark; Forest Road Design and Décor, in Fourways; Celtis Ridge shopping centre, in Centurion; and the revamped East Point shopping centre, in Boksburg.
Sacre has a diverse portfolio of 178 properties, covering a total 1.39-million square metres of lettable space. This is divided across retail, office, industrial and residential space.
“Energy efficiency for businesses is a low-risk investment which yields substantial rewards,” stated Collison.
She added that, for the most part, the size of the plants can not sustain the whole centre but is able to supplement the supply during peak times. It also goes some way to ensure reliability of supply.
“As responsible corporate citizens, energy efficiency had been identified as a key strategic deliverable to support the broader call made on the private sector to implement renewable and environmentally sustainable technology.
“However, the energy crisis in South Africa, growing energy demand, grid reliability concerns and the increasing cost of electricity have meant that efficiency has become a necessity for South African businesses to remain profitable. Energy efficiency has allowed us to improve our risk management and to achieve cost savings,” Collison highlighted.
Specialist solar PV solutions service provider Terra Firma solutions will be responsible for designing, building, commissioning and managing the rooftop solar PV plants at the centres.
Terra MD Ed Gluckman commented that there was an increasing trend for the retail property sector to embrace solar.
“We are seeing many property companies building solar PV plants at their malls as it uses energy consistently across seven days and this mirrors the solar PV plant production.”
He added there are about 100 solar PV plants across South Africa’s shopping malls.
Further, Gluckman said the move to solar in shopping centres began in 2012, as they are big users of electricity. Energy-hungry heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems account for about 50% of a mall’s energy use, with 30% being used to power lighting.
“The commercial rooftop solar PV market is seeing unprecedented growth in South Africa. With forward thinking property developers such as Sacre recognising the value in mitigating rising energy costs with solar PV, this will help protect their future income by retaining tenants and offering cost effective utility fees.”
He pointed out that South Africa was the second-most shopping mall dense country in the world after the US.
“Because malls centralise the shopping experience, local retailers and landlords have an excellent opportunity to not only contain costs but also to help mitigate the risk of climate change.”