The Swedish flat-pack furniture giant plans to cover every inch of rooftop space at one of its 10 Australian megastores, including purpose-built car parks, with solar panels. Together with big-battery storage and other technology, the operation will not only be energy self-sufficient, but will also be able to feed excess power back to the grid.
“This is about utilizing our commercial buildings to be a part of producing clean energy in the community,” Jan Gardberg, Ikea Australia chief executive officer, said in a phone interview. “We’re exploring what this could mean in the future — that this is ‘Energy by Ikea.’ So it’s basically that we will also become an energy production company.”
Ikea has been investing in renewable power to run its operations for more than a decade and its largest franchisee, Ingka Group, is on track to generate more renewable energy than it consumes this year after investing some 2.5 billion euros ($2.8 billion) in wind and solar power in the past decade. The company plans to locate the pilot project at one of its Australian stores in collaboration with one of the state governments, Gardberg said, declining to provide more details as it is waiting for a final sign-off from the company’s global finance committee.
The choice of Australia for the so-called microgrid is not surprising — the country’s abundant sunshine and accompanying strong wind resource have driven a boom in renewables projects in recent years, but progress has slowed as an electricity grid built around now-aging coal-fired plants struggled to accommodate the new capacity. The market operator is developing a long-term plan to transition to a greener, more-efficient grid, and has encouraged innovative solutions to reach that goal.