Solar solutions provider SOLA Future Energy and South African property development company Atterbury Property Developments have partnered to provide solar energy and electrical storage solutions to the Atterbury portfolio of properties to a projected cost of up to R210-million.
The companies reached this agreement in May, which will guide the installation of 20 MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on properties developed by Atterbury.
SOLA CEO Dom Wills explains that the solar panels will be 72-cell 330 W or 340 W polycrystalline solar modules that have been made by one of the Tier 1 PV manufacturers.
SOLA currently has over 12.5 MW of solar capacity under operation across several large rooftop PV systems, which means that the company is well positioned to carry out the work for Atterbury.
“We are excited to work with a progressive partner such as Atterbury which shares our vision in decentralised energy. Solar PV presents an excellent opportunity to reduce operating costs over the long term, increasing property value and competitiveness,” Wills points out.
SOLA will provide the design and engineering services for the full 20 MW, ensuring that the solar solutions to all these developments are optimised and kept under maintenance. Wills explains that the company will install Internet monitoring systems which log solar energy, irradiance and other parameters to an online platform at five- minute intervals.
“Our projects are monitored continuously, and any error, be it a tripped breaker, a faulty string or anomalous performance pattern are visible to us in real time. Our maintenance teams are on standby to fault find and clear errors. We also perform scheduled maintenance tasks like cleaning, mechanical and electrical inspections.”
He points out that typical rooftop solar PV projects do not have moving parts, with the PV equipment designed to withstand natural elements such as rain, sun and wind. Moreover, because information is being relayed to a digital monitoring system, maintenance can be largely planned and small teams can operate many solar projects.
Development and Lifetime
SOLA will also manage the installation during the project development phase, and will assist Atterbury with the ongoing operation and maintenance of the systems. He explains that property companies such as Atterbury have significant opportunities for embedded solar for self-consumption because they are large energy users which have significant roof space.
The agreement currently covers all Atterbury projects in South Africa as well as selected projects in Africa and abroad.
“As with any rooftop PV installation, various properties have different tariffs, roof types and orientations . . . some properties will be more attractive than others. The first step in our partnership with Atterbury is to process the property portfolio, calculating which properties are most attractive to install rooftop PV,” he states.
Working on a bulk portfolio also allows SOLA to advise on the overall solar strategy for Atterbury. After a solar system is installed, it generally pays itself off within five years, providing the property with at least 20 further years of free energy.
“The savings, over this time, improve the marginal cost of owning and operating a building, thereby making the property more profitable. Solar systems also reduce the carbon footprint of a building, therefore making the building more attractive to tenants and clients with sustainability targets,” he points out.
Wills explains further that the cost reductions of solar technology have made investment in solar systems an essential consideration for property owners in achieving cost efficiency and enhancing yields. Many companies are realising that solar can provide much cheaper energy per kilowatt hour than the energy provided by the centralised grid.
“We realised that we needed solar-smart solutions, as this will become a vital part of the property industry going forward. We have taken a decision to partner with specialists in the industry. After extensive consultation with role-players in the industry, SOLA were our partners of choice and we look forward to working with a leader in the field of solar technology,” Atterbury Property Developments MD James Ehlers states.
However, Wills explains that solar energy systems can only provide electricity without sunlight when combined with storage solutions, such as lithium-ion batteries.
“Initially, we are looking at pure solar installations without storage for Atterbury, but as storage becomes less expensive, we will suggest solutions for peak shaving and self-consumption maximisation,” Wills concludes.