We look at the sustainable ways businesses are harnessing the power of the sun.
The local sewage plant in the quaint town of Lismore in northern NSW made headlines earlier this year when it installed floating solar panels on one of its wastewater ponds, reducing its reliance on grid electricity by 12%. But the sewage plant isn’t the only enterprise in Australia that’s embracing solar panels and battery storage. Across the country, businesses big and small are adopting solar technology – and becoming more sustainable in the process.
Greening the future
The Melbourne International RoRo and Auto Terminal (MIRRAT) is a major entry point into Australia for foreign-made vehicles, almost all of which still rely of fossil fuels for power. But MIRRAT itself has its eyes firmly set on a more sustainable future. The terminal, opened in 2016, has a 100kW solar array designed and installed by EnergyAustralia, which provides more than 90% of power to the administration building, plus energy-efficient lighting and an advanced energy-monitoring system. “There are two ways it benefits us,” says Jed Smith, Head of Commercial and Stakeholder Management at MIRRAT. “One is we’re practising what we’re trying to preach in terms of that sustainable business model. But then also we have a lease for more than 25 years. Over that time [the solar array] more than pays for itself.”
It’s not just new businesses that are taking up solar to improve sustainability. Hickory Group – a 27-year-old construction company based in Melbourne – recently moved from Brooklyn to a new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Laverton North and chose EnergyAustralia to install 624 PV panels. George Argyrou, Hickory’s Joint Managing Director, says the business is working hard to be more sustainable – and saving money in the process. “It doesn’t make sense why everyone is not doing this,” he exclaims. Rather than a traditional linear installation, the company chose to have the solar panels assembled to spell out “Hickory” on the factory roof – bringing a new meaning to having your name in lights.
Hatching a plan
Solar panels make great financial sense for a whole range of enterprises – but that’s not the only reason some business owners are embracing sustainable power. “As a farmer, you have to think about the environment – it’s just a pre-requisite,” says Morry Wroby, CEO and Managing Director of Valley Park Farms, which produces Happy Chicken free-range eggs. “That’s one of the reasons why we’re starting to put solar panels on our sheds. There is obviously a commercial benefit, saving on cost, but we’re also reducing our carbon footprint.” Wroby says EnergyAustralia’s all-in-one service convinced him to choose the company for his solar needs. “They gave me a proposal that just made a lot of sense,” he explains. “They worked out the payback period; they take full responsibility for the installation; they showed me how it works; they’re putting in top equipment; [and] they stand by what they do.”