Massive industrial solar generator commissioned in Sydney’s Industrial heartland

The glass and aluminum bones of many of Australia’s commercial and residential structures will now be built with the power of the sun, after a massive rooftop solar array was commissioned in Sydney’s industrial heartland.

The one-megawatt solar PV system is sitting on top of three buildings in Smithfield owned and operated by family owned Australian manufacturer G.James, which employs more than 2,500 people across its operations.

The solar PV system will produce more than one gigawatt hour of electricity a year, supplying one quarter of onsite energy use and reducing annual electricity bills by about $270,000 per year.

The installation was managed by Australian energy services business Verdia and financed via the Westpac Energy Efficiency Program. Verdia is now delivering an estimated 68 megawatts of behind-the-meter solar PV across the retail property, manufacturing, agribusiness and aged care sectors.

Key facts

  • A one-megawatt system made up of 2,410 solar panels, producing one gigawatt hours of electricity a year – or enough to power 236 homes
  • Reducing on-site energy use by up to 24 percent for Australia’s largest integrated glass and aluminum manufacturer and $5.6 million in energy savings over its working life
  • It will lead to an estimated 900 tonnes of greenhouse gas reduction each year
  • Improving operational efficiency and using the power of the sun to help manufacture products used across some of Australia’s most iconic and commonplace built environment.

While G. James is an established industrial manufacturer supplying Australian businesses, it faces constant pressure from overseas operations that simply don’t have the same high cost structure for parts of their business.

And one of the recent escalating cost pressures is the price of electricity.

“Its plant is using heating and cooling processes to produce its end products, and this uses a lot of energy,” Verdia CEO Paul Peters said.

“The cost of that power across its Smithfield operations went up substantially over a 12-month period. Overseas manufacturers just aren’t facing these same costs pressures at the scale we’ve seen here in Australia.”

The new solar installation is a fitting way for G.James to celebrate more than 100 years of business, by taking the next step to a new clean energy future.

Its Smithfield complex contains an aluminum extrusion operation where a large hydraulic press is used to force the processed metal through dies under extreme pressure and heat.

The end products are finished aluminum fittings for use across our built environment – from commercial and residential structures, to local parks and even trucks, boats and trains.

Across the site in another building, glass is cut, toughened and laminated so that is can be turned into finished products for use in thousands of residential and commercial structures throughout the country.

According to the Australian Photovoltaic Institute the installation is the largest of six rooftop Solar PV generators with more than 100-kilowatt capacity in the industrial zone around Smithfield and Wetherill Park.

According to The Clean Energy Report 2019 there was an 80 percent growth in medium scale solar PV installations between 100 kilowatts and five megawatts in 2018 across Australia, adding 102 megawatts of solar energy generating capacity.