September 20, 2017

Black River Park cements its position as Africa’s largest integrated photovoltaic plant

Redefine Properties’ Black River Park in Cape Town has cemented its position as Africa’s largest integrated photovoltaic (PV) plant when it turned on phase 3 of its PV installation earlier this month. The roof top installation at the 75,000m2 office park in Observatory is rated at 1.56MW and is made up of approximately 6000 panels spread over 9000m2 of roof space.

By comparison, search engine giant Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, the Googleplex, generates 1.6 MW of electricity from 9,212 photovoltaic solar panels. With the new added capacity, the Black River Park now ranks amongst the world’s top 20 roof top solar installations.

The panels produce an average of 40% of all power required by the 3500 people working at Black River Park during peak electricity demand. The power usage which is generally lower during weekends and public holidays renders the office precinct completely self-reliant from an energy perspective on certain days.

The rooftop top power plant has to date cut CO2 emissions by almost 3000 tonnes. This is equivalent to burning almost 2million kgs of coal or 1.2 million litres of petrol. The system has produced 4,910,175kWh to date. This is sufficient energy to power over 1100 standard households (typical family of 4) for a year or 10 households for 110 years (German Federal Environmental Agency data).

Any excess power that is generated is sold to the City of Cape Town under an independent power purchase agreement.

Ilse Badenhorst, Head of Utilities, Redefine Properties says, “This is a significant milestone for the industry and we have shown that with a little ingenuity and help from technology, the journey towards carbon neutral is not as onerous.”

“Solar currently represents the cheapest and most sustainable way to generate renewable electricity. Also the technology has leapfrogged to such an extent that efficiencies are constantly improving as prices fall. As the panels use space on top of the commercial buildings, they shield it from the sun leaving it cooler, further lowering energy consumption.”

The park has retrofitted all of its common and parking areas with Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) as well as instituted a cost-benefit sharing agreement with tenants to further the roll out of energy saving technology. The park has also engaged with tenants to reduce their energy consumption through tenant education and active audits.

Black River Park was the first office precinct to receive a Green Star Rating for the existing building pilot tool and is home to the first building to achieve a 6-Star Green Star SA rating. All buildings in the park are Green Star SA rated.

“By adopting solar, we have been able reduce energy costs and save approximately R6 million over the past 30 months, with monthly savings between R80,000 in winter and R300,000 in summer. With the 3rd phase now online, we expect the monthly savings to increase by at least 30%.

Aside the potential energy savings the park has been able to ratchet, its environmental policy also extends to waste management with over 75% of waste collected being diverted from landfills. All waste from the park is sorted on site into recyclable and non-recyclable materials including correct disposal of fluorescent tubing. The park also maintains ecologically friendly gardens with water sourced from boreholes on site.

“As a responsible corporate citizen, we are constantly looking for ways to adopt sustainable practices by disrupting the normal.”

“The realisation that sustainable practices mitigate the risks of climate change should have cut into the mainstream much earlier. The exponential understanding of the risks of not doing something has really brought the industry together to commit to make the move towards renewable energy.”

Triple bottom line reporting is increasingly becoming de rigueur corporate practice of most established companies’ annual reports and changing the way that investors invest their funds. South Africans firms are increasingly integrating sustainability principles into their businesses by saving energy and making judicious use of finite resources.

“The change is coming, and corporates and tenants are engaging with developers on issues of sustainability. For sustainability to be front and centre on the agenda, it is critical that they feel they are part of the solution.”

“At Redefine Properties, we are already thinking of how our developments, be it in office, retail or industrial space can be agents of sustainable change through renewable energy and internet of things (IoT).” Badenhorst says in conclusion.

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