Has your business considered how commercial scale solar could reduce your energy costs and emissions?

The Clean Energy Regulator (CER) is presenting case studies on the innovative approaches taken by power stations participating in our schemes. A power station that provides electricity from renewable sources (commonly wind, solar and hydro) may be accredited under the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target (LRET) scheme. After accreditation, large-scale certificates (LGCs) can be created for the electricity generated – 1 LGC per megawatt hour (MWh).

While rooftop and utility scale solar installations across Australia are going from strength to strength, commercial scale installations (100kW to 500kW) are still underrepresented. This market segment presents a great opportunity for businesses to cut their energy costs and for solar installers and designers to deliver great solutions to customer needs.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation says “Australia is a world leader in solar energy whether in large-scale projects or residential and commercial rooftop solar. However, there is enormous untapped potential, especially when it comes to complex large-scale developments”.

CER data suggests there has been a decline in commercial scale installations and the opportunity for businesses is greater than ever.

Australia's largest retailer, Woolworths Group, has realised the benefits of commercial scale solar and recently celebrated the installation of the 150th rooftop solar panel system in its supermarket network. It also has installations on Big W stores and distribution centres, taking the total to more than 180 systems.

The retailer plans to increase this to 350 supermarket rooftops over the next 2 years, send zero food waste to landfill by 2025 and to make 100% of its own brand packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by the end of 2023. It's also aiming to be net carbon positive by 2050.

The Woolworths Group's solar panel installations attract an incentive through the LRET, administered by the CER. The supermarket giant has been involved in the Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme since 2011. Many of the group's installations are accredited as power stations—a status achieved after meeting a set minimum generation capacity of over 100 kW and other eligibility requirements.

Electricity produced from these assets allows the group to create large-scale generation certificates (LGCs) that can be sold through long term contracts or on spot market. One LGC is created for every megawatt hour of electricity that is generated from renewable resources.

In 2022, Woolworths started migrating some power station assets into the Solar Irradiance Model, a data driven methodology developed by the CER that automatically calculates LGC entitlements. This dramatically reduces the administrative burden on scheme participants.

Woolworths Group Solar PV Project Manager, Peter Harris, said the 150 installations have significantly reduced grid electricity usage.

“A typical solar system can offset 10-30% of a supermarket's electricity usage. Woolworths Group has also significantly reduced its carbon emissions by 27% since 2015 through initiatives to improve its overall energy efficiency. We are already seeing the benefits and are highly motivated to achieve our goals.

“We really believe in the future of green energy and the benefits it can deliver to communities - local, national and global – and we are backing our belief with determined action,” Mr Harris said.

Since 2015, Woolworths has produced more than 43,000 LGCs. LGCs can be sold to liable entities (mainly electricity retailers) who buy and surrender the LGCs to CER to comply with mandatory scheme obligations. In return, the LGCs provide the power station with another source of revenue beyond sale of generated electricity. In this way, the RET scheme provides an investment incentive in the development of renewable energy power stations.