Solar Power for Strata Buildings
Adding solar power to a settled Strata building is challenging, but not impossible. And given the well-established long-term cost savings solar power offers, it would be foolish not to start thinking about switching to solar power. Not forgetting the potential for it to increase the value of each property while also making the property more appealing to sustainability-minded buyers and tenants.
At Arc Renewables we have extensive experience bringing solar power into Strata buildings, which has allowed us to recognise four common approaches, each with their own set of benefits and flaws.
This system works better for Strata properties consisting of standalone units or townhouses, and is inherently more difficult to add to apartment buildings. The reason for this is that each unit ends up with their own solar system, with dedicated solar panels on the roof solely for their system. This is easy to accomplish when each unit has its own roof, but with apartment buildings you have a single roof, and the roof area does not equal the floor area. In this case the Strata Owners Corporation or Body Corporate would need to divide the solar-friendly sections of the roof up between all owners; solar-friendly would be sections that are unshaded and that face north, east, or west.
Better for townhouses and standalone units.
Each unit can own their solar system, and there are no concerns about sharing.
More difficult to implement with apartment buildings.
Can be significantly more expensive, with greater wiring needs, and smaller systems for each unit.
A concession needs to be made for powering the common areas of the building or property.
Finally, a feature of this system that is both a benefit and a flaw is that each individual owner can install their own system in their own time and at their own cost. However, in apartment buildings the roof would still need to be divided up ahead of time, so every owner has an equitable share of space. Additionally, this approach also eliminates any savings from bulk buying the system and other components.
Unlike the individually metered system, this system is ideal for most types of Strata buildings, with a single rooftop solar PV system generating renewable energy for the entire building. The technology driving this system allows all units to be allocated the same amount of solar power each month, but with each unit using their allocation as needed. As with most solar power for Strata buildings, this is not an off-the-grid solution, as units will likely still need to draw some power from traditional energy suppliers.
System is bought by the Owners Corporation or Body Corporate, eliminating the need for dividing the roof up.
Owners can decide to opt-out and are still able to choose their own energy supplier.
More costly than other systems, so needs a larger number of owners to commit to it.
Not widely available yet.
Admittedly not an easy system to implement, and certainly better suited to apartment buildings, the use of an embedded network sees each unit effectively connected individually to a private network. Traditional electricity from energy suppliers is connected to a parent connection or master meter that each individual meter is then connected to. Renewable energy from the building’s own solar system can also be fed into the parent connection for equal distribution to each unit.
More equal distribution of solar power.
Bulk buying of electricity can unlock lower tariffs for end users.
Needs the full support of the Owners Corporation or Body Corporate and individual owners.
Considerably more expensive to implement, particularly in established Strata buildings where the network might require a retrofit.
Additional regulatory hurdles other systems aren’t exposed to.
The simplest, but also least appealing solution is to only implement a solar powered system for the common areas of the Strata building. The only time this approach is useful is where the building does not have enough roof area to accommodate a solar system that could provide some power to all units. Although each unit is unable to benefit from renewable energy, each owner would still see some cost savings in the form of lower levies or common costs. Although the system is the simplest and least expensive to implement, it should only be considered in situations where there is no way to fairly give all owners access to solar power using any of the other systems discussed here.
The key to adding solar power to established Strata buildings is to choose the right energy partner to work with you. Our approach at Arc Renewables is to not only help you choose the right system for your building, but to also design it, source all the required technology and components, and to then project manage every aspect of the installation for you. And if you haven’t already, we would recommend your journey to adding solar power to your Strata building begins with making the building more energy efficient by first implementing a switch to LED lighting.