Swedish furniture giant IKEA has announced it will install 3.9MW of rooftop solar PV systems across all of its Australian east coast stores and warehouses, a project that will result in the nation’s largest commercial solar development so far.
The project – which will see more than 16,000 panels installed across IKEA Australia’s five stores in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales, as well as two merchandise pick-up locations – will have an annual output of 5,495 million kilowatt hours (MWh) of electricity; enough to power 778 family homes for a year.
The installations, to be made by Canadian Solar and Kingspan, kicked off in April at Queensland’s Logan store (741kW) and will wind up at the Melbourne Springvale store (950kW) later this year, and will collectively span an area of 32,870m2 – the size of five soccer fields.
As part of IKEA’s company-wide sustainability plan, the furniture maker also pledged that all future stores built in Australia would have solar PV systems already installed. The largest installation will be a 990kW array at the Tempe store in Sydney.
The news is a quite big deal for Australia’s commercial solar sector, which has so far failed to thrive, stifled by a federal and state policy dog’s breakfast that has created unnecessary complexity and distorted the market. However, further deals are in the pipeline, if talk at last week’s Australian Solar Conference is correct.
It also backs recent statements by industry analysts Bloomberg New Energy Finance and others, that rooftop solar – both residential and commercial – is now an unstoppable force in the Australian market, that could see around 23GW of solar PV installed by 2030.
For IKEA, which in 2012 committed to becoming 100 per cent renewable by 2020, the Australian announcement is part of a broader plan to minimise its environmental impact and to become energy independent.
As of 2013, the company had installed 550,000 solar panels on its 300-plus buildings worldwide.
In the US, it is the No. 2 private commercial owner/user of solar power in the US, and in April made its first wind-energy investment, buying a 98MW wind farm in Illinois, south of Chicago, which it says will not supply any of Ikea’s 38 US stores, but instead generate enough renewable energy to power around 34,000 households annually.
IKEA, whose sales have jumped more than 30% to nearly $40 billion over the past five years, also produces geothermal energy.
The retailer’s chief financial officer for US operations, Rob Olson, recently told MarketWatch that it had “mapped out and produced” a favorable return on investment, and would continue to scout for wind-farm investment opportunities globally.
“We don’t look at it as a short-term investment. The potential with wind energy is huge. We want to make sure we are doing our part to take care of the environment and to be energy independent. But it also makes economic sense,” Olson said.