Emira completes eighth solar power installation

Emira Property Fund is continuing its programme of investment into clean energy from renewable resources to create long-term growth and to drive economic recovery. The listed REIT began exploring site-embedded energy production with a small 271kWp farm on the roof of Epsom Downs Shopping Centre in Bryanston in 2015 which generated power used at the property.

Justin Bowen, National Development Manager and Head of
Sustainability for Emira says that based on the lessons learned from this pilot
project, Emira has now completed its eighth installation and increased total
annual production of solar power to more than 9 million kWh.

The solar farms power Emira’s buildings in an environmentally
responsible manner further enabling other businesses to play their part in
reducing the strain on the national power grid. Each solar farm that comes
online lessens reliance on Eskom and coal-fired power stations. In choosing
premises that benefit from solar energy supply, businesses reduce their
operational carbon footprint by ensuring that part of their power comes from
clean, renewable energy.

Emira has increased its actual solar power production nearly
eightfold during its past two financial years alone. In July 2018, it was
producing 736 671 kWh at three solar farms and by June 2020, it was
producing 5.7 million kWh from six installations.

The 5.7 million kWh produced by Emira’s farms in its recent
2020 financial year is equal to the carbon absorption capacity of 5 283 acres
of forest. This is the same as removing 874 passenger vehicles from the road
for one year or an average passenger vehicle driving 16 155 996 fewer
kilometres. It can be likened to stopping 1 723 248 litres of petrol
from being consumed or preventing 2 229 tons of coal being burnt. It saved
enough energy to power 685 average homes. The energy saved could be used to
charge 515 952 674 smartphones.

Looking back on our renewable energy journey we
have learnt a great deal, some big lessons and others small but no less
important. For instance, we always install water taps close to photovoltaic
(PV) panels for easy cleaning with less water consumption
,” Bowen notes.

Significantly, Emira’s ongoing renewable energy drive has
not been derailed by the pandemic which, if anything has quickened the shift towards more
resource-efficient, sustainable business in 2020. Its
latest installations were completed at Market Square, Plettenburg Bay, and
Springfield, Durban, during the lockdown. And it is working on plans to install
three more before mid-2021.

The REIT also has plans to extend the existing solar
farm at Wonderpark Shopping Centre in Pretoria. This will increase the 1.2MWp
system to over 3MWp, making it one of the largest roof-mounted PV systems in
South Africa. Emira hopes to receive approval for this project from the
National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) in the next few months.

With current legal and technical
difficulties, it is not viable to supply electricity over-production to the
national grid. Thus, PV power is most effective at properties that operate
seven days a week, so that the entire production can be consumed on the
property itself. The cost of batteries for solar power storage is still
prohibitive. That said, technology is improving in capacity and reducing in
cost as global giants like Tesla, BMW, Jaguar, and others invest millions of
research and development dollars for battery technology to use in
electric-powered vehicles.

With the increasing price of
Eskom power, we have reached a point where, even with wasted weekend energy
production, the cost per kWh from PV generated panels still makes better
financial sense. Importantly, it is clean. We foresee major solar farm rollouts
increasing for years to come. It is agile and responsible compared with
coal-powered stations that take decades and fortunes before they become
operational
,” points out Bowen.

Of course, without battery storage, solar power energy
is not an adequate buffer against the power outages that South Africa
experiences due to its unreliable electricity supply, which reached their
highest level yet this year. According to the CSIR, the country experienced
around 1,500 gigawatt-hours’ worth of total power outages as of 2 September
2020. By comparison, it experienced closer to 1 300 gigawatt-hours of outages
between 2015 and 2019. The outages are set to continue, if not worsen, over the
next 18 months, until at least March 2022.

To prevent disruption for tenants’ businesses, Emira
provides backup generator power across 63% of all its gross lettable area.
Nearly 74% of its office space, over 65% of its retail space and some 55% of
industrial space is equipped with generation capacity. Most recently, Emira
recently installed additional backup generators with a combined production of
2330kVA at Epsom Downs Office Park and Hyde Park Lane, at a cost R5,1 million.

Backup electricity via diesel generators is expensive
– both its installation and operation. Also, most generators are not designed
to run for the long periods that South African businesses need them, resulting
in costly wear and tear. “While none of this is ideal, in this weak economy
companies cannot afford lost productivity. We understand this and strive to
provide supportive environments for tenants across all our properties. Until
the electricity grid stabilises, Emira is stepping in to enable tenants to
operate their businesses and help create jobs and grow the economy. Enabling
productive business spaces is positive for both our tenants and ourselves, as
their businesses are more likely to remain in one of our properties
,” says
Bowen.

All this highlights the importance of sustainability in business.

Sustainability is engrained in the Emira ethos, which includes reducing our carbon footprint and being a good global corporate citizen. We are mindful that the way in which we do business can help our tenants to do better business,” notes Bowen. “Reducing global climate change and limiting the extent of global warming to the 1.5-degree Celsius level is going to take a global effort, and Emira is proud to play our part and help our tenants, clients and shoppers do their part for the benefit of future generations.”

Source: Propertywheel.co.za | https://propertywheel.co.za/2020/11/emira-completes-eighth-solar-power-installation/

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