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A retail centre captures the power of the sun through 872 solar panels

A new retail centre in South Africa has joined a group of forward-thinking companies around the country that are harnessing solar energy to limit their environmental footprint and reduce high electricity costs.  

The new Lynnwood Lane Retail Centre, a retail development from Lynx Property Developers on Lynnwood Road, Pretoria, is now powered by solar energy. The centre hosts tenants such as Food Lover’s Market, Nando’s, Westpack Lifestyle and Dischem Pharmacies.

A solar photovoltaic system was installed by solar solutions company SolarSaver over 31 days during the construction of the shopping centre. “On the roof, you’ll find 872 solar panels that will produce 1,364kWh of energy for 22 shops at the centre,” says Lance Green of SolarSaver.

“This will go a long way to supplementing the 7,507kWh of power the retail centre needs to operate on a daily basis.”

An innovative funding model for retail centre

Thanks to investment from the Pembani-Remgro group, the renewable energy firm is able to offer a unique rent-to-own model and installed the full system at zero capital cost for Lynx Property Developers.

Clients only pay for the cheaper, greener power the system generates, which is fed directly into energy supplies via the grid.

Dirk Nel, Director of Lynx Property Developers, says, “Solar has previously been expensive to install and set-up. This way, our developments can immediately benefit from greener energy, without the capital outlay. With the price of SolarSaver electricity only increasing in line with CIPC costs, we’re less exposed to Eskom’s rising tariffs and we can pass this benefit on to tenants.”

Through this model, the solar company also takes care of the vital ongoing cleaning and maintenance of the system, monitoring output and ensuring that the panels operate at peak performance.

According to Green, Gauteng-based solar installations require more frequent cleaning than coastal-based due to dusty conditions and pollution. “While photovoltaic hardware systems are long-lasting, the panels must be kept clean to ensure that the system operates at full capacity,” says Green.

He adds: “It’s in our interest to ensure that these systems are producing the maximum power possible and cleaning can be expensive. The fact that we take care of all monitoring, cleaning and maintenance is proving to be a huge advantage for clients.”

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Without battery storage, loadshedding is still a threat

While the grid-tied systems do not currently provide power during loadshedding, SolarSaver aims to take most clients off-grid in the future as battery costs come down. “From a business perspective, retailers have the immediate cost-saving benefit of harnessing solar energy, as well as the benefit of having a solar power supply infrastructure with the potential of going off-grid in the future.”

The company has completed over 150 installations and now manages the largest fleet of self-financed rooftop installations in Southern Africa, largely in Namibia, with clients from fuel stations to manufacturing businesses to large shopping centres.

Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl
As the Editor of ESI Africa, my passion is on sustainability and placing African countries on the international stage. I take a keen interest in the trends shaping the power & water utility market along with the projects and local innovations making headline news. Watch my short weekly video on our YouTube channel ESIAfricaTV and speak with me on what has your attention.