Martin Daniel, Planet Ark

Sustainability advocates Planet Ark have stepped into the growing renewable energy market with the launch of Planet Ark Power.

The new enterprise, a partnership with established solar PV engineering firm GoZERO, is targeting commercial installations of 30 kilowatts and above with packages of Trina Solar panels and Schneider inverters.

The target market includes retail centres, schools, councils, recreational facilities and small to medium enterprises.

Recently appointed PAP program manager Martin Daniel said the venture has already completed two megawatts of installs nationally and has 2MW or more of projects in the pipeline.

The official launch is due to happen in around July of this year, he said.

A year of research preceded the signing of the partnership with GoZERO, he said.

There is also current research underway involving a pilot of battery storage at 10 trial sites.

“By early next year we will have a battery product [to offer],” Mr Daniel said.

The batteries being considered are “smart batteries” that have higher-order functionality such as peak shaving. Power factor correction and LED lighting are also among the additional technologies to be offered.

Installations are being carried out nationwide by ASX-listed network services firm Service Stream.

To reduce the capital cost barrier for commercial installs, the venture is offering a range of finance options including power purchase agreements and leasing packages. The finance options are backed by the Commonwealth Bank, Mr Daniel said.

The venture is expected to provide a revenue stream for the organisation – similar to the Planet Ark recycled paper product – that will help support its other non-commercial activities.

Mr Daniel said there have already been expressions of interest from potential clients for large installations of a number of megawatts.

He said joining forces with two engineering-based firms was beneficial for targeting the commercial sector as it “takes more expertise” to manage the relationships.

Unlike a large proportion of residential installations, commercial is not a case of “just install and walk away”.

The Brisbane-based GoZERO, for example, has a staff of 35 – and 27 of them are engineers.

Mr Daniel said the big driver for commercial solar buyers is the financial side – saving money on energy bills.

Many small to medium enterprises have bills in excess of $10,000 a year and the financing options are structured to deliver a cash flow-positive result.

There is also a social responsibility element as well, he said.

From a marketing point of view solar is a demonstrable sustainability initiative.

To ensure systems are delivering as they have been engineered to, ongoing monitoring is part of the package. An online monitoring hub has been developed that enables users to log-in from anywhere.

The monitoring can also be displayed on a screen in a company lobby or on its website, and as well as showing energy generated it shows the corresponding carbon offsets created by the solar.