Smart Energy Hubs

Traditionally, energy transaction is a simple linear relationship between a large coal-fired generator and the consumer. With advancements in technology, a new energy ecology is made up of a multitude of widely distributed interactions. It is now possible to be both a generator and a consumer of energy. Energy can be stored in batteries when it is cheap, abundant and renewable and then release it later when supplies are scarce and expensive.

The combination of a large solar array, an energy management program called LoadFlex, and a large battery is known as a Smart Energy Hub. At GPT, the hubs are delivered in partnership with Shell Energy with funding from government. This kind of innovation is what’s needed with an orderly transition to a low carbon economy.

Chirnside Park, one of GPT’s first shopping centres to operate carbon neutrally, exemplifies an orderly transition plan. This included investments in a 650 kW solar PV array, a LoadFlex program and, at the time of installation, one of the largest battery storage systems servicing a building in Australia. GPT can flex its energy demand using predictive technologies and market triggers that can change our building’s energy demand in an instant and help stabilise the grid. Investing in both a solar PV array and battery is critical to ensure energy reliability and affordable rates (for GPT and/or tenants) when there is little sun and wind and aging coal-fired power stations break down.

Maintaining comfort conditions of our assets remains a priority. With the Smart Energy Hub, during times of electricity supply constraint, we are able to flex our loads in addition to utilising the stored energy from the battery and electricity generation from the solar PV array to lower peak demand cost, maintain conditions and stabilise the grid as it transitions to renewables. 

GPT’s capital investment into the Chirnside Park Smart Energy Hub was $1.4 million. Expected cost savings from energy bills are predicted to be $100,000 per annum, and rental income from Shell Energy is worth $60,000 per annum. Highlights of the Chirnside Park Smart Energy Hub include:

  • The Hub will offset up to 70 per cent of load during the Critical Peak Demand (CPD) window;
  • Saving 812,000 kWh of energy (from the grid) per year; and
  • Reduce inherent emissions by about 850 tonnes.

Since the installation of the Chirnside Park Smart Energy Hub, a second Hub is close to becoming operational at Charlestown Square. Charlestown’s Hub will consist of a 770kW solar array, a 1 MW battery energy storage system and a LoadFlex program that will help stabilise the grid with a transition to renewables.

Projected highlights of the Charlestown Square Smart Energy Hub include:

  • Saving Charlestown Square around $250,000 a year in energy costs;
  • Saving around 1,000,000 kWh of energy (around 50,000 kWh from the grid) per year; and
  • Reduce inherent emissions by about 750 tonnes.

The next Smart Energy Hub in the GPT portfolio is due to become operational at Highpoint in the coming months, representing further significant ESG leadership in the broader shopping centre market.