Commercial, industrial and resource sectors are investing in solar at record rates following the residential sector's strong uptake of solar energy.
Recent figures from solar industry consultancy SunWiz suggest a 33% increase in installations occurred across residential and commercial developments in WA last year.
Perdaman Advanced Energy managing director Dominic Da Cruz said the key factors of increasing energy costs, faster return on investment, new technology, and concerns about environmental impact and corporate social responsibility has led to commercial investment in solar panels.
“With the recent hike in energy prices and more pending, the commercial sector is now actively pursuing the use of solar power,” said Mr Da Cruz.
“Studies reveal that over a five-year period, a solar panel will produce enough energy in just six months to pay back the cost of manufacturing. This means after the initial six months, it will be a net source of energy.”
Recently, University of Newcastle Professor Paul Dastoor announced the creation of Australia's first printed solar site. Costing less than $10 per square metre to make, the solar panels can be manufactured and transported quickly.
On a commercial scale, it would take 10 printers operating around the clock to produce enough solar panels to power 1000 homes for a day.
Professor Dastoor first began experimenting with the class of plastics known as semiconducting polymers in the mid 1990s. By breaking the semiconducting materials down into tiny particles, Professor Dastoor developed a method of suspending them in water, which led to the concept of producing a solar paint or ink that could be applied to surfaces.
Currently in the final stages of perfecting the process of printing water-based solar paint, Professor Dastoor and his team of 30 researchers at the University of Newcastle's Centre of Organic Electronics are about to start printing hundreds of metres of solar cells per day. They have also become the first in the world to build energy-efficient devices from water-soluble solar paint materials.
"The greatest issue the world is facing is energy production. We have billions of people who have no access to energy or electrical power at all," he said.
"How do we solve this issue? We capture the sun's energy through solar paint and turn our homes, cars and appliances into solar power stations," Professor Dastool said.
Mr Da Cruz said, “Over the last five years, there has been a dramatic fall in the cost of installing solar power, especially rooftop panels and land developers, commercial property portfolios, schools and aged care should be embracing this,” he said.
“There’s a wealth of benefits with commercial solar and storage which we are deploying into retirement villages, schools and large commercial property – especially shopping centres.
“We’ve just completed a $700,000 project for leading aged care providers Southern Cross Care (SCC), installing solar energy systems across five of its retirement villages in the Perth metropolitan area.
“Generating approximately 657,940 kWh annually, each system has a fantastic pay back around three years and will reduce the carbon impact of the sites by 539 tonnes of CO2 per year, the equivalent of planting 3,700 trees.
“And we’re soon to be working with some of Perth’s private schools on solar power installation.”
Mr Da Cruz said solar panels were attractive for commercial companies because:
· Grid supplied electricity prices are increasing even further
· The component costs of solar has dropped significantly
· A solar power system requires little maintenance and will provide electricity for up to 40 years
· Making electricity from solar power will reduce emissions contributing to climate change which means companies are pro-actively reducing greenhouse gas emissions and pollution.
“The combined effect is a winning business case.
“There’s never been a more exciting time for commercial companies to embrace solar panels. We are confident that over the next ten years we will see them switch to this clean energy which has a wealth of environmental and economic benefits.”
Dominic Da Cruz is the managing director of Perdaman Advanced Energy who are behind the recent solar power installation at a shopping centre car park in Northam.
The car park is WA’s first purpose built solar car park and together with the roof-top array is currently the largest on-site commercial solar installation in WA at 665 kW. It will provide 40% of the electricity to the Northam Boulevard Shopping centre.
Pictured: Solar energy 'farm' in Texas.