A massive solar PV plant is being erected on the roof of Wonderboom Junction shopping centre and is the first of its kind to be approved by the Tshwane metro.

Construction of one of the largest commercial rooftop solar plants in the country has received the green light from the Tshwane council and will be completed in less than three months’ time.

The 7 000m² solar photovoltaic (PV) plant, made up of 3 600 solar panels along with 18 inverters, will be built on the roof of Wonderboom Junction in the north of the city. Centre owners were currently also looking at expanding the initiative.

The shopping mall is currently undergoing a R700-million upgrade and revamp undertaken by property developer Abland and will see the size of the centre increase from the current 37 000m² to 58 000m².

Once operational, the solar plant will have a capacity of approximately 1,15MW (1 152kW) and produce some 1 850 000kW of electricity a year, which is enough to power about 400 standard family homes for a year.

The solar plant is being constructed in three phases and once complete, in August, it will be one of the largest in South Africa and generate approximately 10 to 15% of the annual electricity required for the shopping mall.

“The Tshwane metro has taken a major step in upping the ante for city metros in South Africa by approving its first commercial solar PV plant,” said Shaun Welgemoed, head of retail development at Abland, the development manager for Pivotal Property Fund that owns Wonderboom Junction.

Pivotal commissioned Terra Firma Solutions, a specialist turnkey energy and solar company to design and build the solar plant.

“This is a groundbreaking solar PV plant in the Tshwane municipality and we [Terra] are grateful to the municipality for allowing Wonderboom Junction to be their first officially approved rooftop solar PV plant,” said Ed Gluckman, managing director of Terra Firma Solutions.

“The centre is an ideal site for solar PV as it has an expansive rooftop space with no shading around.”

With Eskom under pressure to meet energy demands, and increasing tariffs, Pivotal and other property funds had dramatically increased their investment in renewable energy for their commercial properties over the last few years to mitigate rising electricity costs, Welgemoed said.

“Retail properties in particular offer a fantastic return given that the majority of a shopping mall’s energy demand occurs during the middle of the day when a PV plant produces the greatest amount of electricity, which means all the electricity generated is utilised by the building.”

“Shopping malls also operate on the weekends, which greatly improves the solar plant’s payback period for the owner,” he said.

Wonderboom Junction’s solar plant will cover 7 000m² of the existing 30 000m² roof.

“Aside from the energy savings to be enjoyed, it also addresses Pivotal’s sustainability goals by supporting renewable or ‘green’ energy generation.”

“As a company we strive to develop and own retail sites that are as sustainable as possible. Working with Terra Firma Solutions, we will be able to generate a sizable portion of our daily electricity needs while also increasing the financial yield of our upgrade,” said Welgemoed.

Wonderboom Junction is currently undergoing a major upgrade and expansion and Pivotal is considering expanding the solar installation too.

“This would increase the future size of the solar plant to well over 2,5MW, which would make it one of the largest commercial rooftop solar PV plants in the Southern Hemisphere, let alone Southern Africa,” said Welgemoed.

The centre is open for business during the upgrades and will host a Solar Expo, at which the solar plant will be introduced to the public, from 16 to 19 June.

Source: http://rekordnorth.co.za/76836/north-gets-largest-rooftop-solar-plant-in-country