More and more people are moving into apartments, and this means that the demand for solar panels on apartment buildings is increasing. Solar energy is a great way to save money on your electricity bills and help the environment at the same time! In this blog post, we will discuss some of the benefits of installing solar power on apartment buildings. We will also provide tips on how to get started with this process.
Special considerations for solar panels on apartment buildings
It’s vital to understand the problems you’ll face if you want to install solar on an apartment building or strata complex, as well as the challenges that many solar installers have faced while implementing solar for strata properties.
In most cases, a special resolution is required to pass a new by-law where the roof space to be utilized is public property (in almost all situations). This necessitates a 75 percent majority vote, which in NSW was until recently reduced to 50 percent. Because these initiatives need to take place at an EGM, the decision-making and approval process can drag on.
Many apartment buildings have flat roofs or pitched ones that do not face southwards towards direct sunlight. This can lead to additional installation costs if there is a need to ballast and tilt the installation of solar power.
Crane and traffic control
Your solar system will need to be lifted onto the roof and transported through busy streets, which can cause a significant amount of inconvenience for the local community.
Solar panel installers must coordinate with multiple parties in this instance (the council, traffic management companies) and incur additional costs as well! Solar installations themselves are also subject to height restrictions due to power lines and other factors.
Strata buildings often have a limited amount of space for an inverter, which is the component that converts solar energy into electricity that can be used in your home. The inverter must be located near the fuse box, so it’s important to take this into account when getting solar systems installed.
Many solar companies offer Solar Credits, but they can be difficult to access on a strata-owned property. Solar credits are based on the capacity of your system and not how much power it generates per year: there’s no incentive for them if you’re in shadow or don’t face directly towards the sun all day long!
Solar credits can also only be claimed once, so if you’ve already used them with another system then don’t try claiming again from a different provider.
Renters vs Owner-occupiers
In an apartment complex, there may be both rental properties and owner-occupiers. Depending on who you are, the incentives for going solar might differ. If a landlord wants to install solar power, he or she must first negotiate an agreement with tenants to increase rent payments.
Options for installing solar panels on apartment buildings
From most basic and easy to most technologically sophisticated and complex, here are three potential solutions to the ‘solar power on apartment buildings’ issue – ranging from most straightforward and simple to most technologically advanced and complex.
Option A: Common Area Installation
Although the costs remain largely similar across all strata buildings, there are specific charges that apply to each: fees for common areas, lifts and other communal equipment run via a separate electricity meter; the electricity bill associated with this meter is paid for out of strata levies. This is the simplest way for a solar company to install rooftop solar on very tall buildings with little roof area since it’s a community expense and everyone will (or should) benefit equally from it in the form of decreased strata bills. On top of this, the investment in equipment that is required to set up a system like this may be surprisingly little, particularly if the strata complex does not have any communal lifts, air conditioning, pools, or other energy-hogging amenities. Any maintenance costs, such as cleaning the solar panels every few months can be shared equally.
Option B: Every unit get their own individually-metered solar system
If the unit owners are more interested in solar to benefit themselves or their tenants immediately, or if the common area bills are already tiny, it may be worth investing in solar power systems for each of the individual apartments. But still, the question of roof allocation arises. This is a point that most individuals do not think about when purchasing a unit, but it will certainly come up if one person wants to add a solar system to their apartment (townhouses excluded).
In this scenario, it makes sense for the solar-friendly (i.e. unshaded and facing north/west/east) portions of roof allocation to be preemptively divided among all the homeowners in the name of “fair share.” This might become difficult, especially if the roof is multi-faceted and has shading difficulties in more than one location. If the strata complex contains a portion of roof with total and equal solar access, this problem should be straightforward to address.
If your strata committee reaches this point, you’ll need to determine how much solar panel capacity each square foot of roof area will provide. In the end, each system may be quite modest (1.5kW–2kW), especially if the structure is more than 2-3 stories tall and there is a lot of floor space compared to roof space. If you’re considering solar installations for your apartment block, the most cost-effective approach is usually to have them all done at the same time and by the same business, since smaller systems are typically more expensive per watt of capacity than larger ones, and a bulk buy would probably bring down the overall price.
Option C: Solar power system with a private grid
This method is the most difficult, time-consuming, and costly of all the choices presented here if your structure isn’t already on an embedded network. Embedded networks are a tiny microgrid that exists inside a strata complex. Each unit is measured separately through a “master” meter, which connects the building to the utility grid. Regardless of whether there is solar, individual units in an embedded network are frequently promised lower rates for their power.
In the event of solar being installed on an embedded network, it is theoretically feasible to ‘divide up’ the energy equally among units and deliver it at a lower cost than under a PPA (or perhaps even for free). In addition, feed-in credits may be shared across different units. Residents of individual apartments would still have the option to select their own electricity provider (if they live in an area with a competitive market).
While the embedded network solution is the most thorough of those listed here, it is also the most complicated and time-consuming to install in existing structures because it would need to be retrofitted. The first barrier is obtaining agreement from the strata committee, which would need a unanimous decision to take any action. Given the substantial costs and varied ways to approach a project, it’s likely that the initiative would never advance beyond initial committee discussions without some significant dedication from its members.
Another important issue is the requirement to obtain permission from the Embedded Network Manager (ENM). Every embedded network in the National Electricity Market (NEM) must have a registered manager under Power of Choice rules. The ENM is not incentivized to allow the Body Corporate to install solar since doing so will result in them using less power through their gate meter and selling less power to the residents. Solar would also necessitate a modification of the ENM’s billing system, which would be difficult to accommodate.
Common Solar Myths for Apartment Buildings and Strata Properties
Myth: Solar is not worth it because the roof space on top of my apartment building is too small or does not face directly southwards towards the sun.
Solar is worth it, regardless of your roof space or orientation: You can get solar systems installed on roofs that are not facing southwards and still generate electricity from sunlight reflected off surrounding tall buildings or trees. Solar power systems come in all shapes and sizes, so talk with a solar company about what options are available for you! A solar system can be designed small enough to fit even the most awkward of spaces, from chimneys (which is where the term “chimney effect” comes from) to skylights and gutters. Solar power plants can also use mirrors or reflectors instead of traditional photovoltaics–these systems tend not to be as efficient but they’re worth considering if you have a lot of roof space.
Myth: Solar power won’t increase the value of my apartment or strata complex.
Solar power can definitely increase your property value. Don’t take our word for it, talk to a real estate agent in your area about how solar power may impact the value of your property before making any decisions. Solar energy is becoming more and more popular each year, so having solar power installed on your building can only be seen as a good thing by future buyers. Solar panels are also easily removed if they no longer suit the aesthetics of your property or you want to sell it, so installation costs shouldn’t deter potential buyers either way.
Myth: Solar panels will make my apartment building look ugly and ruin its aesthetic appeal.
Your solar power system doesn’t have to be an eyesore–they can actually help improve the aesthetics of your property! Solar power can be installed in a variety of different ways so that they’re not visible from street level or even up close. New models of solar panels have increased aesthetic appeal as they continually get thinner or come in designs such as all black, instead of the traditional silver steel frame design.
How many solar panels are needed to power an apartment?
The number of solar panels needed to power an apartment building depends on the size and energy requirements of the building along with your chosen solar panel capacity. Generally, a small or average-sized apartment building would need around 500-1000 watts of solar PV capacity to meet its electricity needs. This means that between 15 and 30 solar panels would be needed to provide enough clean energy for an apartment complex. Larger buildings will require more panels, while smaller buildings may need less. Talk to a solar company to get an idea of how many panels your building would need!
Benefits of Solar Panels for Apartment Buildings
Apart from reducing your electricity bills, a solar system offers a number of other benefits that are worth considering:
- Solar power systems can help you reduce your carbon emissions and do your part in helping the environment.
- Solar energy is a renewable resource, so you’ll be able to rely on it for years to come. Solar energy is also a sustainable resource that can help reduce your dependence on non-renewable resources such as coal and gas. Solar power is clean energy, which means it doesn’t produce any greenhouse gases or other pollutants during its production process–unlike fossil fuels, which release CO on the environment through their extraction and burning.
- A solar system can increase the value of your property.
Talk to a solar installer about the best options for your apartment building or strata complex and see how you can save money and help the environment at the same time! Installing solar panels on apartment buildings are becoming more and more popular, so there’s no better time to make the switch. Skyline Solar are one of Sydney’s leading solar companies and would be happy to assist with reducing your electricity bill from your chosen electricity retailer, contact us today for obligation free professional advice.