Westfield’s Australian owner and operator Scentre Group has jumped into the solar race, announcing this week it will install a large solar energy system at its Westfield Marion shopping centre in Adelaide, in a move with joint owner of the centre, the Lendlease-managed Australian Prime Property Fund.

The solar system is said to be sized at 647.73 kilowatts, and according to a report in December last year in Adelaide Now, the panels will at the same time provide shading for around 284 car bays.

The move is part of an upgrade expected to take five years and to add 65 shops across two levels, 10 restaurants and cafes and more than 1000 parking spaces, the report said.

The solar panels will be supplied by Origin Energy and are expected to produce CO2 savings of 650 tonnes a year.

Scentre Group’s general manager of facilities and sustainability Stuart Elder told the Australian Financial Review this week that the move was a “key pillar to Scentre Group’s sustainable energy strategy” to reduce the company’s carbon footprint and reliance on traditional electricity generation.

The announcement signals that Westfield is edging into the sustainability space, a move that has been keenly awaited by the industry, given the massive size of the group and the influence this will have on the sector.

Already the industry is shifting gear towards greater sustainability.

A recent article in The Fifth Estate reported an uplift of solar energy investment in particular from major shopping centre owners such as Stockland, GPT, AMP Capital Shopping Centres.

In line with stakeholder concerns that this investment makes financial sense, owners report they can reap good returns from retailing energy to their tenants that, after the initial commitment to infrastructure, is essentially free to harvest.

Westfield has been slow to the party. But the sustainable property industry will be pleased to see it’s been joined by one of the world’s global giants in the sector, at least with a foot in the door. Or in this case, on the roof.

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