Growthpoint Pilots Solar Charged Big Battery at Paarl Shopping Mall

  • Growthpoint Properties is piloting a 4.5MW battery system at Paarl Mall in the Western Cape to store electricity for its continuous, cost-efficient power supply.
  • This is the largest commercial battery installation in South Africa to date, and it will be partly charged by Paarl Mall’s new rooftop solar PV plant, extending the positive impacts of renewable sun-powered energy around the clock.

Over more than a decade, Growthpoint has installed 13.5MW of solar power across its SA portfolio, but this R50 million investment is the first time it is integrating a large battery system.

“Battery technology has come a long way in recent years. Previously prohibitively expensive, batteries have become increasingly affordable, especially considering rapidly rising electricity prices and our imperative to help prevent costly business disruptions for our clients caused by load-shedding,” says Grahame Cruickshanks, Growthpoint Head of Sustainability and Utilities.

Growthpoint’s 60,000sqm Paarl Mall is an ideal pilot site to prove how a sizeable battery system linked to a solar plant improves the environmental performance of large shopping centres and lowers the cost of energy.

Paarl Mall recently undertook an energy-efficient H-VAC upgrade to lower its electricity consumption. Despite substantial energy savings, the centre’s electricity bill was set to hike a hefty R5 million a year because the mall’s decreased load factor meant it only qualified for a more expensive municipal electricity tariff. In light of this, Growthpoint needed to tailor a new solution to provide green energy to the entire mall while ensuring a consistent power supply and optimising energy costs.

For the ground-breaking project, Growthpoint’s retail and sustainability teams partnered with energy engineers Terra Firma Solutions and Anderson Consulting Engineers. The Drakenstein Municipality adopted a proactive approach by providing the mall with the time needed to find the right energy-saving solution.

Boasting more than 5,000 PV panels with a direct current capacity of 2.5 megawatts-peak (MWp) and generating 3,601,500 kilowatt hours (KWh) of energy annually, Paarl Mall’s new rooftop solar plant will span a massive 25,000sqm. Its sealed-container 4.5MW battery bank battery system, comprising three 20-foot containers with lithium-ion batteries, will be charged from both the mall’s solar power and the grid.

The system’s operation, production and yield will be monitored and managed offsite with the aim of optimal energy arbitrage, a technique where power is bought during off-peak hours, stored and used during peak hours. This enables peak-shaving that flattens the electrical load profile of the building. The system has also been designed to accommodate some of the mall’s demand during load shedding.

“Proving the concept and technology would provide a big push in the right direction towards our carbon reduction targets. We are hoping to onboard more malls with this solution to future-proof our assets, protect them from load-shedding and optimise energy costs,” remarks Neil Schloss, Growthpoint’s Head of Asset Management: Retail.

“With our clean, uninterrupted energy initiative at Paarl Mall, we are striving to create a win-win for the mall, its community, the country and the planet. It is all about coming together and finding cooperative solutions for shared and sustainable long-term gains,” adds Schloss.

Growthpoint would, in principle, be willing to sell excess solar energy it produces at Paarl Mall, but more clarity is needed on local wheeling arrangements before this option can be given serious consideration. For now, it is focused on bringing affordable clean energy to the centre, ensuring continuity of operations and providing significant relief to the national power grid.

The project’s four-month installation will begin in August 2022 and the system is expected to be commissioned in early December. It should be fully operational by mid-December.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal

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