Solar installation allows more fruit to be processed

Monday, 26 August, 2019 | Supplied by: Verdia


The Nine Mile Fresh apple processing and packing facility in South East Gippsland has installed industrial solar power stations to reduce onsite energy use by one third, and minimise the facility’s energy bills.

The 1.14 megawatt system is made up of 2850 solar panels installed across 17,600 square metres of industrial roof space in Tynong, about 60 kilometres south-east of the Melbourne CBD. The project is one of several megawatt-sized solar generators installed at large commercial and industrial businesses surrounding Melbourne over the last seven months.

The sorting, grading and packing facility processes 150,000 kilograms of apples each day that are supplied by 50 growers across Victoria and Tasmania. The apples are processed through 51 separate channels of bruise-free water, pictured below, as part of the facility’s grading and sorting system. The new solar stations allow more fruit to be processed by the facility, using 5700 megawatt hours each year, approximately the same amount as that used by 1000 typical Victorian homes.

The solar power station is claimed to be able to reduce energy use by one-third and greenhouse gas emissions by 1600 tonnes each year, providing a notable environmental benefit to the facility. Key facts regarding the impact of the solar power stations on Nine Mile Fresh’s energy savings are provided in the table below.

The project was managed by Australian energy services business Verdia and financed by the Bank of Melbourne’s energy efficiency program, with support from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Verdia CEO Paul Peters said the solar installation would provide clean, emissions-free electricity, at a lower price than power sourced from the grid.

“The system will pay for itself in just under six years and then provide a third of onsite electricity for free,” Peters said. 

Nine Mile Fresh outsourced the financial and technical management of the program, due to concerns about competing needs for capital, a lack of specialist resources and the risk of choosing poor quality vendors. Outsourcing the program removed the risk from delivering the program in-house.

“Ultimately, it meant we could see the financial benefits sooner and hedge against future price shocks for a large portion of our electricity use,” Ryan said.

“We spend more than one million dollars on electricity, so it’s a significant outlay and an obvious area where we can be more efficient and reduce our operating costs. It is also becoming much more important for consumers and retailers to choose a product that has a lower environmental footprint. Reducing our energy use and emissions and improving our sustainability helps achieve that,” Ryan said.

Verdia develops and delivers renewable energy projects to reduce energy costs through rooftop or ground mounted solar PV, lighting retrofits, power purchase agreements and energy storage. Verdia also works with the Bank of Melbourne to provide customers with low-cost, tailored finance via the bank’s Energy Efficiency Finance Program.

Despite their ineligibility for state government subsidies, commercial and industrial-sized installations are still providing substantial financial and sustainable benefits to businesses. The Clean Energy Australia Report indicates an 80% increase in medium-scale solar PV installations between 100 kilowatts and five megawatts in 2018 across Australia, generating 102 megawatts of solar energy. An additional 13.5 megawatts of solar generation systems were accredited with the Clean Energy Regulator in 2019, installed across several commercial and industrial premises in Victoria.

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