The benefits of solar for apartment buildings

While Australia, with its abundance of sunshine, has embraced the solar power revolution, apartment blocks or strata schemes have long found accessing solar power to be difficult.

Smart Solar House Energy

Solar presents a particular challenge for apartment buildings, as they have generally operated on an all or nothing basis when it comes to solar power. Traditionally, in most cases, all residents of the building had to use and invest in solar power for the scheme to work – which can often cause problems when you have to meet the varying needs and expectations of owners, long-term residents and short-term occupiers.

Solar in strata is often challenging due to the following considerations:

  • Many unit complexes contain a mixture of owners and renters, who have different levels of incentive for investing in solar. An owner who rents out their unit may have no interest in providing the benefits of solar energy for their tenant, as the owner will not see any benefits from it.
  • Each unit has its own electricity meter and electricity account, and it is often complicated to ‘split’ the solar energy evenly between units, as well as track how much solar energy is being produced and which units are using how much of it.
  • As well, if extra solar energy is flowing into the grid, it’s complicated and difficult to split those benefits up among a large number of electricity accounts.
  • Apartment buildings often have flat roofs, meaning additional cost to tilt the solar panels.
  • Tall apartment buildings can incur additional costs for extra-long cable runs and additional labour and machinery hire costs to transport panels and equipment up to the roof.
  • There are many more decision makers in strata situations, meaning the decision-making process can be long and drawn out.

While the challenges may be great, the benefits of solar power for apartment blocks are significant:

  • Lower electricity bills
  • Use of a clean energy source that is environmentally responsible
  • Reduced reliance on the electricity grid, meaning lower demand on the network
  • Reduced CO2 emissions

It’s certainly worthwhile for apartment buildings to consider strategies to overcome these challenges, because it can be done. Different solar options for apartment buildings can include:

  • Solar for common areas, where solar power is only used to supply common area circuits.
  • Individual solar systems, where separate solar systems are installed on one, some or all of the individual units.
  • Shared solar ‘splitter’ systems, where a device is purchased that will share the output of one large solar system among the units in an apartment block, and residents are only billed for the energy they use.
  • Embedded networks, where multiple unit owners share a single connection to a private grid, and buy their power from an embedded network operator that manages the local network.

The options are out there, and while it’s certainly more complicated than installing solar power on houses, there are a range of feasible solutions which can help unit owners and dwellers access the solar revolution. Often, bodies corporate can be the perfect solar users, as they have a wide consumer base who will generally use all the electricity generated on site, which translates to maximum financial benefit. For advice on how best to incorporate solar energy into your apartment building, contact the leaders in strata management.