The door swings open and a man dressed in arctic gear, including a parka jacket and fur boots, walks in. It’s Mike, the warehouse manager at wholesale frozen fruit supplier The Berry Man, rugged up for -20′ C temperatures in their state-of-the-art freezer facility.
The Berry Man supplies all kinds of yummy frozen fruit, berries, purees, juices, pulps and freeze dried ingredients to food services across Australia. In October 2018 they opened their new, state-of-the-art freezer warehouse on Sydenham Road, in-between Sydney Tools and Binding Prestige. The 200mm thick concrete walls and ceiling keep the cold in and the berries fresh, but refrigeration is a power-hungry business so, as well as insulation, they have solar panels covering almost 100% of the roof. Real Solar Champions!
The Berry Man founder, Mick O’Toole, is the man behind the build.
“We built it, designed it, from scratch. The supporting structure of the roof was designed to maximise the number of panels we could put on the roof. The slope of the roof and the engineering materials we used were chosen simply so that the roof could be as flat as possible and that meant that, rather than having panels on a frame tilted towards the sun, we could just fit more panels on screwed flat down.
“In the end we finished up with 281 panels which supports 87kW production. Because we only have three inverters, our max is 75kW. The extra panels just mean you’re getting to the 75kW earlier and you’re keeping it longer.”
The solar panels provide around one third of Berryman’s energy requirements and avoid tons of CO2 going into the atmosphere annually.
“There’s an app here which tells us exactly how much you’re producing and how much CO2 you’re avoiding going into the atmosphere”, says Mick. “It’s the best feel good thing I’ve ever done.”
The Berry Man used Solarbank Australia for their install, and are full of praise for them.
“Everyone says ‘you must save a lot of money’,’ says Mick. ‘It is nice that we produce lots of electricity and we don’t have some of the costs we had before but that wasn’t the point. Climate is in the news all the time. We’re all getting better and better educated about it. Refrigeration is fairly nasty as far as that’s concerned and we just wanted to do whatever we could to offset the problems we’re creating. It’s the business we’re in and I’m not ashamed of that but it was just on our minds. It’s the right thing to do.”
And the payback? Mick shrugs. That’s not really the point for him. As his son Greg, who manages the day-to-day business explains, as major consumers they have a preferential power rate, which stretches out the payback period. They’re still saving money but it’ll take a few years for the panels to pay for themselves.
“I’m happy to talk about what we’ve done and why and what the benefits have been. I’m not looking for any credit for what we’ve done but I’d like to think that if anyone is in two minds [installing solar] we can convince them.”