Bridge Toyota (NT)
Commercial Solar Northern Territory: Exceeding Expectations
Solar PV + power factor correction ease power price pains for Bridge Toyota Darwin
Darwin’s Bridge Toyota car dealership was battling on several fronts: local electricity is dear, their site’s power factor was poor, and power consumption was through the roof. That’s when GEM Energy came to the rescue. Bridge Toyota Darwin is one of five Toyota dealerships in the Northern Territory, and one of over 300 nationwide. The business specialises in everything around new and used Toyota vehicle sales, finance, servicing and the ordering of parts and accessories. Bridge Toyota Darwin are a proud part of the local community and have provided invaluable training, employment, and their expert services to locals for many years. Visiting this solar car dealership assures you the most excellent customer service as attested by their many happy customer testimonials.
Toyota were founded in Japan in 1937, and have been around in Australia since 1963. The company has experienced phenomenal growth over those years and is today the biggest car manufacturer in the world by volume, and classed as one of the top five brands in the world in the Fortune 500 index. The Toyota Hilux ute was Australia’s favourite car of 2016 and has been the top-selling car in the Northern Territory, Western Australia, and Queensland for eight years in a row. As reflected in their environmental policy, Toyota recognise the responsibility they carry concerning sustainability and strive to reduce their footprint by minimising waste production, water and energy consumption.
Background – the energy market in the Northern Territory
First of all, we need to take a look at the Northern Territory’s energy retail and distribution system, which is somewhat different to the rest of Australia. The NT only has one electricity retailer, Jacana Energy, which is owned by the Northern Territory Government. While full electricity retail competition was introduced in 2010, no additional competitors have entered the market for a variety of reasons. Almost half the power bill is made up of network costs or industry charges, which reflects the cost of distributing power to your address.
As with many Australian businesses, rising energy prices, coupled with increasing peak demand charges, were threatening the financial viability of Austchilli. Peak demand charges in particular had been adding a substantial extra cost to their commercial power bills. Austchilli was being hit even harder by increasing energy costs, due to the more expensive network costs that are typically borne by businesses operating in regional areas. All of this added up to a pretty significant dent in Austchilli’s bottom line.
Bridge Toyota Darwin consume a lot of electricity at their massive site at Stuart Park, which includes a showroom, office, workshop, and warehouse. Over the last decade they have seen massive increases in electricity charges, and with the Northern Territory going broke prices are likely going to rise further in the future. Operating cost increases like that can only be absorbed for so long before the business balance sheet slips into the red.
When we began consulting Bridge Toyota, we quickly realised that their site’s power factor (PF) was below par, costing the business in efficiency (equalling dollars on their bill) as the power at their site was not well utilised. GEM Energy can deliver power bill savings of up to 25% just by improving a site’s power factor. Inexperienced installers in large-scale solar often overlook the fine detail of a low power factor, even though it is a regulatory requirement for commercial systems to keep PF above a certain level.
Fortunately, the combination of problems at Bridge Toyota – the high costs of local electricity, the poor power factor, and the sheer volume of electricity consumed on site – all boded well for a solar success story. Darwin’s high solar irradiation levels (meaning that the sun shines a lot), the business’ daytime operating hours and tons of roof space, as well as GEM Energy’s expertise in designing large-scale solar systems with a high power factor, made Bridge Toyota the ideal candidate for solar PV.
System cost: $132 186 excl. GST
66% reduction in energy imported from the grid
Annual projected savings: $35 000 – $40 000
Return on Investment (ROI): 30%
Payback: 3.5 years
In order to familiarise ourselves with the energy usage of Bridge Toyota’s site, we evaluated the previous twelve months of energy usage in 30-minute intervals. This gave us an idea of when and where power is used. We also inspected the site and analysed what cost savings we might achieve through improvements in HVAC, LED lighting upgrades, and of course, power factor. Solar PV – especially in the commercial sector – is more than just slapping panels on roofs, and by getting a detailed idea of what was needed for the job, we could design a perfectly sized solar system for our client – not just one that was cheap.
In March 2017 we installed 100 kW of solar PV on Bridge Toyota’s roof, as well as a power factor correction unit. Because of the high cyclone activity in the region, we recommended Q CELLS solar panels, which are some of the highest-quality modules on the market with an award-winning cyclone rating. These panels have been tested extensively for their endurance in high wind speeds and really are built for Australian conditions. The inverter system we went with is SolarEdge, the beesneez of solar inverters with a power optimising system that maximises power output and allows the tracking of individual panel performance.
Since becoming a solar car dealership, Bridge Toyota Darwin have seen a 66% reduction in energy imported from the grid, translating to power bill savings of up to $40 000 per year, and a payback period of three and a half years. From that point onwards, the business will own the solar system outright and truly be able to benefit from the free power of the sun and the resulting cash flow increase.
With the ample roof space available, Bridge Toyota have the option to expand the solar system by adding additional panels or a battery such as Tesla Powerpack to cover their baseload power consumption overnight. All components of GEM Energy’s solar power systems are readily expandable.
Bridge Toyota Darwin needed to tackle their power price problem sustainably, and GEM Energy provided all the answers through solar PV and power factor correction. Bridge Toyota have been extremely pleased with how the future-proofing of their operation is working out!
We would like to thank the management team at Bridge Toyota for putting their trust in our company and commend them for their business sense and foresight in becoming a solar car dealership. We would also like to send out big thanks to our hard-working installers out in the field.