Ballito Lifestyle Centre Powers Forward with Solar Energy Initiative

Ballito Lifestyle Centre Powers Forward with Solar Energy Initiative

Lifestyle Centre in Ballito has proudly announced a major milestone in its sustainability journey with the installation of a cutting-edge solar energy system. A very fitting announcement for Earth Day, this expansive R 30 million installation underscores the North Coast shopping centre’s commitment to environmental stewardship, energy efficiency, customer experience and community well-being.

Bruce Rencken, co-owner of Lifestyle Centre, says that the decision to invest in solar energy has been years in the making, driven by several key factors. “Load shedding has had a significant financial impact on the business, as well as our tenants, and over the years has compromised the shopping experience for our valued customers,” he said. “While we were compelled to spend large sums of money on backup power in the last few years to mitigate this, the solutions to date have not been sustainable. We decided after lockdown that we needed to take ownership of our carbon footprint to impact more positively on the environment. From an environmental perspective, embracing solar energy was a no-brainer, as it is the right thing to do. We also see an opportunity to address the current electricity crisis in South Africa through the collective impact of private sector investment in solar energy. Individuals can all play their part, but they can’t tackle the climate crisis or our country’s electricity crisis alone. We believe that private businesses need to purposefully step up to have an even greater collective effect. A passive approach is not enough to tackle the challenges.” Lifestyle Centre’s substantial investment in an expansive solar system aims to generate over 60% of the centre’s daytime electricity consumption, marking a significant step towards energy-efficient practices and sustainability.

Rencken explains that, after months of research and investigation, the solar project kicked off in early 2023 with the appointment of a professional, multi-disciplinary team and detailed concept design. “Sunbird Solar, a local company based in Shakaskraal, was chosen as the contractor, aligning with our commitment to supporting local businesses. Compliance with and approvals from relevant stakeholders and authorities were diligently secured over a lengthy period, while 3556 high-quality solar panels and 15 inverters with a superior life expectancy were procured to ensure durability and reliability.” The installation and commissioning phase is currently underway, scheduled for three and a half months from March to June 2024, which, according to Rencken, will mark the culmination of a meticulous planning and execution process to minimise disruption to tenants and customers.

To date just over 1 000 solar panels have been installed on the extensive roof structure above Lifestyle SUPERSPAR and adjacent stores. The first of five specially built substations around the centre was commissioned on 13 April, harnessing 9.05MWh of solar power in the first three full days of operation. This equates to 3 544kg of CO2 emission saved and the equivalent of 106 trees planted, providing a small insight as to what can be expected from the full-scale operation. “When the whole system is up and running, and taking into account summer versus winter sunshine, we can look forward to effectively be “planting” the equivalent of 120 – 150 trees a day, or 40 000 – 55 000 trees a year,” Rencken enthused.

The solar energy initiative represents a significant leap forward for Lifestyle Centre and the broader Ballito community. Rencken expects that not only will it reduce operational costs, thereby contributing to financial sustainability, but also enhance the shopping experience for Ballito customers by minimizing disruptions caused by load shedding or power outages. “It’s also important to us that we are supporting local businesses and injecting into the local economy, while committing to long-term environmental stewardship and community well-being,” he said. “Individuals and small businesses may feel that reducing their minuscule carbon footprint is too little to be worth the distraction, but even a small contribution is worth making. It all adds up. Along with our other initiatives, such as waste management and recycling, we hope to inspire the commitment of our staff, our tenants, our suppliers, our customers, and maybe even the wider community, to embrace renewable energy and make a positive impact on the environment. Every person educated about the environment and sustainability is another source of information into the wider community. Aligning with the spirit of Earth Day, together, we can power a brighter, more sustainable future for generations to come.”