The South Australian government has called for proposals to develop what could be the country’s largest rooftop solar array, to cover 8 hectares – up to 25,000 square meters – of the roof space of a former automotive plant in Clovelly Park, south of Adelaide.
Located 10 kilometres south of the CBD, the 61 hectare industrial site known as Tonsley was once a manufacturing hub where Chrysler and then Mitsubishi made cars for nearly 50 years, until Mitsubishi ceased operations in 2008.
In 2010, realising the site’s strategic importance, the South Australian government bought it with the idea of creating a high value manufacturing and industry cluster, to help facilitate the state’s transition to cleantech manufacturing.
Two years later a Master Plan for the site was released and the government committed $253 million to its redevelopment.
The site has since been redeveloped around the skeleton of the old Mitsubishi plant, making a feature of the iconic saw-tooth roof that once housed the Mitsubishi plant’s main assembly building.
The solar project – for which a two-staged request for development proposals will open this week – will allow for up to 25,000 square meters of solar panels to be installed on that same roof, to generate a potential 3.6 megawatts of electricity; enough to power up to 770 homes a year and save 2430 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
If it goes ahead at that size, it will be three times bigger than the next biggest rooftop solar array, the 1.2MW installation at the University of Queensland.
SA Premier Jay Weatherill says the project aligns with his government’s recent announcement to increase the state’s renewable energy target to 50 per cent of power generation by 2025.
The plan is to use a retailer-funded business model to leveage private investment for the array, rather than additional government funding.
When it is built, the PV array will provide Tonsley tenants and investors with solar-powered electricity at a cheaper rate than the grid.
The first companies to come on board were IT company Tier 5, which is investing $113 million in a state-of-the-art data centre, and multinational engineering and advanced technology firm Siemens.
In 2012 Siemens signed an MOU to become a strategic partner in the project, and subsequently committed to develop a new manufacturing facility on site.
Earlier this year, it was announced that Basetec Services, Signostics Limited, battery storage and solar company Zen Industries and MAN Diesel and Turbo Australia also had signed on and that CIC Australia had been chosen as the residential developer.
Santos, Beach Energy and Senex Energy have also pledged multi-million dollar support for a new Mining and Petroleum Centre of Excellence to be based on site.
The redeveloped industrial hub already houses a new TAFE training centre, and development of a campus for Flinders University is well underway.
“The solar array further adds to Tonsley’s environmental focus to reduce ongoing energy operating costs and demonstrate a significant reduction in carbon emissions,” said SA manufacturing and innovation minister Susan Close.
The request for proposals for the project also includes an option to expand onto the adjoining TAFE SA Sustainable Industries Education Centre roof space.
The Sustainable Industries Education Centre at Tonsley has been recognised internationally, recently winning an award at the World Architecture Festival.
Ninety per cent of the existing steel structure of the old plant was retained for the new centre, with glazed partitioning both internally and on the façade showcasing TAFE’s activities to the public.
Tonsley is one of two pilot programs in South Australia pursuing sustainability ambitions for a five-star Green Star Communities rating from the Green Building Council of Australia.
It is projected to provide 6,300 jobs during the life of the project and the site will annually accommodate 8,500 students.