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SA REIT invests +R30m in solar PV plants at its malls

Looking to curb ever-climbing electricity tariffs at its malls and reduce their carbon footprint, JSE-listed REIT SA Corporate Real Estate Limited is investing more than R30m to install rooftop solar PV plants at some of its properties.
Retail asset manager Carmen Collison said that SA Corporate Real Estate Limited had invested R26.2m in solar to date with 2MWh installed. The future capex spend would be approximately R33.5m, which would see an additional 1MWh installed.

Coachman’s Crossing Shopping Centre in Bryanston, Town Square Shopping Centre in Weltevredenpark, Forest Road Design and D├ęcor in Fourways, Celtis Ridge Shopping Centre in Centurion and the recently revamped East Point Shopping Centre in Boksburg are among those going solar.

Low-risk investment


“Energy efficiency for businesses is a low-risk investment which yields substantial rewards. Taking steps to achieve efficiency is essential for businesses across sectors because of the far-reaching benefits and long-term savings,” she explained.

Collison said that the degree to which cost savings would accrue would vary across different malls. For the most part, the size of the plants cannot sustain the whole centre but rather supplements the supply during peaks. It also goes some way to address reliability of supply.

Terra Firma Solutions will be responsible for designing, building, commissioning and managing the rooftop solar PV plants at the shopping centres. Managing director Ed Gluckman said that there was an increasing trend for the retail property sector to embrace solar.

“We are seeing many property companies building solar PV plants on their malls as the malls use energy consistently across seven days and this mirrors the solar PV plant production. We know of around 100 solar PV plants across South Africa on shopping malls,” he said.

Referring to an already operating system at Willow Way Shopping Centre in Pretoria, which is part of the SA Corporate Real Estate Limited portfolio, Gluckman said that the 390kWp system, which covers approximately 2800m2 with 1200 solar panels mounted on the roof, was commissioned in September 2017.

Reduction in carbon emissions


In February this year, 356MWh cumulative energy had been produced during a period of six months since installation, providing a cumulative CO² (carbon dioxide) reduction of 349 tonnes.

Gluckman said that the move to solar in shopping centres probably began in 2012, as they are big users of electricity. Energy hungry HVAC systems which control heating, ventilation, air conditioning and cooling (refrigeration) account for around 50% of a mall’s energy needs with another 30% being used to power lighting.

He noted that shopping centres were particularly suited to the installation of solar panels as they had large homogenous roofs with a seven-day electricity load, ensuring that all of the solar PV power was used.

“Malls have a similar electrical load profile to solar PV plants with their peak usage being around midday,” he said.

Gluckman added that he expected the number of solar PV installations on both new builds and existing malls to increase as South Africa caught up with its retail counterparts elsewhere in the world.
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