“Australia’s largest” school solar system generates 1GWh in first year

by | May 12, 2021 | News

Republished from One Step Off the Grid, 12 June 2019.

An 888kW rooftop solar system installed at Camberwell Grammar School in Melbourne in 2018 – believed to be the largest PV array on any school in Australia – has produced just over 1GWh of renewable electricity in its first year of operation.

Gippsland Solar, the company behind the massive project, said last week that the system’s 2,700 panels had produced 1,027,000kWh in its first 12 months.

And while that is an impressive amount of solar energy for a single school to generate, it came as no surprise.

“We gave the customer a detailed performance guarantee, taking into account shading impacts and other analysis and variables, and we estimated about 980,000kWh a year,” Gippsland Solar founder and managing director Andy McCarthy told One Step.

“The result came in nearly 3 per cent (2.7%) above our estimate.

“In an industry which, frankly speaking, has suffered from some false promises and credibility issues over the years, we can proudly show the data that validates our modelling,” he added. 

“We’ve been monitoring (the system) very closely, and so far we’ve had an inverter that needed to be replaced. ”

“That was done on the same day that we picked up the fault in an email alert.”

McCarthy says that with Australia’s commercial solar sector reaching boom-time, more and more rooftop solar systems are coming with these sort of performance guarantees, and with a guarantee to compensate clients if they don’t meet targets.

“The last (rooftop solar) job for a private school we quoted for, they had four proposals – all from well established companies, all offering operation and maintenance guarantees.

“Clients are also understanding the gravity of the decision that they’re making.”

Another good news story to come out of the Camberwell Grammar project, says McCarthy, was in the company’s dealings with network operator CitiPower, which had initially slapped a zero export limit on the big system.

“We went to CitiPower to contest the ruling, and explained that the client was never going to export more than 100kW.

“We had a mature discussion, and came to a result everyone was happy with,” he told One Step.

“Distributors listen to some reason now. And at the same time, solar companies understand it’s important that they consult with the networks on their protects – that the grid has to fit all these distributed power generators in.”

As for the return on investment the school is making from its solar, that has not been made public. But McCarthy says, having put the customer’s tariff through the system, they can say that the PV system is on target on that metric, tracking at 3 per cent above estimated savings.

Sophie Vorrath

Sophie is editor of One Step Off The Grid and deputy editor of its sister site, Renew Economy.
Sophie has been writing about clean energy for more than a decade.

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