The commercial rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) market is growing rapidly in South Africa, with solar systems providing an ideal solution for commercial landlords looking to reduce both electricity costs and their carbon footprint, says Lance Green of SolarSaver.
While the cost of installation has been prohibitively high in the past, SolarSaver has removed the need for capital investment through a unique rent-to-own model and is currently installing systems countrywide. Businesses pay only for the greener, less expensive energy produced.
“Forward-thinking landlords, retailers and property developers are catching up with international counterparts in seeing the potential to use solar installations to help attract and retain tenants. Solar installations allow landlords to pass utility cost savings to their tenants, in addition to providing them with an attractive, eco-friendly offering. Tenants are increasingly conscious of their carbon footprints and greener buildings regularly attract higher rentals,” says Green.
A study published in the Journal of Real Estate Research notes that business owners are showing increasing interest in sustainability and that when browsing for office space, prospective tenants often prioritize buildings with eco-friendly features, high energy efficiency and similar attributes. The study concludes that this is more than a passing trend and constitutes a significant pattern that property investors need to take into account.
“Retail malls or commercial properties with lots of under-used roof space are ideal for solar power generation,” says Green. “Solar installations make particular sense for retailers as they require energy consistently during the day, seven days a week, with demand usually peaking at midday. This mirrors daylight hours when the supplementary energy produced by grid-tied solar installations is available.”
As a result, Green says that SolarSaver has seen strong for solar from the retail property sector: “Of the 120 solar installations currently managed by SolarSaver in South Africa and Namibia, 35 are on retail outlets.”
As an example, SolarSaver installed a 250 kWp system at Lifestyle Mall in Rustenburg in mid-2018. Since then, the system has produced 387 840 kWh of electricity, supplementing roughly 20% of the mall’s power needs. SolarSaver has completed similar installations in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and Windhoek.
A new 1-megawatt (1MW) installation was completed at 17 200 square meter Mtuba Mall in northern Kwa-Zulu Natal in July this year. The anticipated solar output from that system is 1 528 200 kWh per year, which will go a long way to reducing the property’s utility costs. Dylan Niemann, General Manager of Mtuba Mall says, “We are always looking for new initiatives that help reduce our impact on the environment. In addition, the irregular power supply and load shedding threats over the last few years have forced us to search for alternative ways to generate our own electricity.”
Shopping malls also need consistent electricity supplies to do business, and while grid-tied solar does not offer protection against load-shedding, adding batteries to the installation is the logical next step for many of these businesses. “Retailers like Mtuba Mall are taking a long-term view. Installing a solar solution means they get the immediate cost-saving benefits, as well as the potential to link batteries to the system that is already in place to be able to go off-grid in the future,” says Green.
And it’s not just large businesses or malls who are benefiting. “We’re also financing the installation of PV systems at smaller centres and fuel stations – and those systems are also delivering solid cost savings for our clients,” says Green.
SolarSaver provides customised rooftop solar photovoltaic solutions to corporate and industrial customers in Namibia and South Africa through its proprietary zero-capital financing model.
Solar Saver uses a rent-to-own contract to allow businesses to save on their monthly electricity bills by allowing them to utilise their unproductive roof and parking spaces to generate renewable solar power without any capital outlay, or the requirement to invest in the expertise to build and operate a solar installation.
SolarSaver has completed over 120 projects in South Africa and Namibia, the majority of which are managed in terms of rent-to-own contracts. Installations include systems for shopping centres, service stations, hotels, hospitals and factories. Sedgeley Energy is the technical service provider to Solar Saver and is responsible for the installation, administration and maintenance of the rental portfolio.