How to Get Solar Energy as an Apartment Owner: Explaining Your Options

How to Get Solar Energy as an Apartment Owner: Explaining Your Options

More than 2.2 million Australians live in flats, units or flats. If you live in an apartment, you may think that solar power is not a viable option for you. Not only is you limited by roof space but staying in an apartment often means sharing amenities with other residents of your plot – this usually includes the roof. These intricacies and other limitations related to technology and layering laws mean that, in statistical terms, solar power for apartments represents a huge market gap.

So how can you reap the benefits of solar energy as an apartment owner?

The good news is that there are now many options available that make solar power possible for apartment dwellers in Australia – even if not in the traditional sense. Here are three options to consider if you are interested in going solar as an apartment owner.

solar energy sharing

When you live in an apartment, decisions about the property — including solar installation — are often made by your collective, your classes, or your corporate entity. It can be difficult to delve into this area since not everyone has the budget or desire to invest in solar energy. In most states, more than 50 percent of owners, including landlords, need to agree before making any changes

Make for property.

It is not uncommon for apartment complexes to use solar energy to power public areas and utilities such as parking lots and elevators, but it is more complex for apartment owners to obtain solar energy for personal use. Apartment owners can search for an individual scheme but still need approval from the owner’s company to license or lease a common area for individual use. If multiple owners are concerned about their system, you have the added complexity of limited ceiling space and the need for individual cables.

Fortunately, there is an emerging solution to these problems – solar energy sharing portals. This means that a single solar system, with the help of a solar splitter, can be shared among many populations. Participants split the cost of the system and enjoy the benefits of a significantly reduced electricity bill.

In Melbourne, Allume Energy has created a solar energy sharing platform called Solshare. It is being marketed as an industry-first technology to ensure apartment dwellers benefit from solar energy in the same way that residents of a self-contained home can. SolShare’s sharing algorithm responds to each owner’s usage, which directs solar energy to where it is needed to maximize consumption and savings. This means that owners will get their share of solar energy when they need to use it and when they will save the most money.

Not all residents need to be involved – solar energy from the single system on the roof is routed only to those SolShare-connected apartments behind their counter. This may still be a problem since the roof is a common area, but it definitely simplifies the process of using solar energy as an apartment owner.

Solar sharing platforms like Solshare are working with property developers to bring the technology into the new apartments before buyers come into the picture. This will solve the purchase problems that often prevent the installation of solar energy in apartments.

Currently, the SolShare platform is limited to low-rise residential housing, where high-rise apartments typically have too little ceiling space to accommodate a system large enough to serve all owners.

If caste laws or logistical constraints (i.e. living in a high-rise) make it extremely difficult to install your own solar system or participate in solar energy sharing, one of the best options you can consider is to participate in a community solar garden.

A solar garden is a large-scale, grid-connected solar installation that allows multiple residences to share in the financial benefits of solar energy without having to place panels on their own roofs.

Solar parks are built on land near existing electricity grid infrastructure with good sun exposure. The solar park then generates clean, renewable electricity and feeds it to the utility grid, replacing fossil fuels. Solar farmers buy a “plot” in these solar parks, and depending on how much energy their plot of land generates, they will receive credits that offset the cost of the electricity bill.

Not all solar community gardens are created in the same way, but the most common model is for the solar park to be owned and operated by an outside company rather than your own utility company. This company installs, maintains and operates solar panels on behalf of the solar garden community.

A community solar garden cannot directly feed your apartment; Instead, it feeds into the main power grid. When you become a solar gardener, you are essentially buying “upstream” from the utility company.

When a solar gardener shares the energy generated in the solar garden, he offsets the brown energy he uses in the home via virtual net metering (VNM – also known as aggregate net metering). The facility identifies each subscriber as providing clean energy to the grid which entitles them to receive credits on their electricity bill based on how much energy their plot of land generates.

For example, if a subscriber owns 10% of the panels, then 10% of the production will be added to that community’s solar park. These credits offset the cost of your electric bill and, in some cases, may cover it completely.

GreenPower

If your motivation to use a renewable energy source such as solar is based on environmental rather than financial reasons, one option is the government-led Green Energy Initiative.

Under this initiative, retailers agree to offset some or all of customers’ energy use by purchasing electricity through certified renewable generators.

Unfortunately, the cost of GreenPower is passed on to the consumer – which means you will have to pay a little more than you would for standard electricity (about 5-10 extra cents per kWh). For this reason, it is worth considering switching to a more environmentally friendly provider instead as you may find that you are getting a better deal overall while supporting long-term investments in renewable energy.

Bonus: solar windows

In the not-too-distant future, Australians who live in high-rise apartments will have access to solar energy generated from the windows of their buildings.

Semi-transparent solar cells that can be integrated into window glass can turn windows into active power generators, potentially revolutionizing building design.

A team of researchers from Exciton Science and Monash University have successfully produced these “solar windows” and are now working on techniques to increase their efficiency.

Researchers are conducting a study of Melbourne’s central area – the first of its kind anywhere in the world – to model the feasibility and impact of window-integrated photovoltaics, along with other solar technologies, on a city scale.

Modeling revealed that solar technology built into windows has been shown to have a smaller reduction in efficiency during the winter months than rooftop solar, providing more consistent benefits and value throughout the year.

While the technology is still in its early stages of development, it holds great promise for the future of solar energy in high-rise apartment buildings.

Bottom line…

While the transition to solar energy as an apartment owner is rarely straightforward, it is important to remember that there are options available to you and the long-term environmental and financial benefits are likely to be worth it. Both solar sharing platforms and community solar parks are viable options – it is simply a matter of finding the right solution for your needs. And with new technologies like solar windows on the horizon, the future of solar power in apartments already looks bright.

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