Get in on the ground floor: how apartments can join the solar boom
While there are now more solar panels in Australia than people, the many Australians who live in apartments have largely been locked out of this solar revolution by a minefield of red tape and potentially uninformed strata committees.
In the face of these challenges, Stucco, a small co-operative housing block in Sydney, embarked on a mission to take back the power. Hopefully their experiences can serve as a guide to how other apartment-dwellers can more readily go solar.
From an energy perspective, Stucco was a typical apartment block: each of its eight units had its own connection to the grid and was free to choose its own retailer, but was severely impeded from choosing to supply itself with on-site renewable energy.
Things changed in late 2015 when the co-op was awarded an Innovation Grant from the City of Sydney with a view to becoming the first apartment block in Australia to be equipped with solar and batteries.
A central part of Stucco’s plan was to share the locally produced renewable energy by converting the building into an “embedded network”, whereby the building has a single grid connection and manages the metering and billing of units internally.
Such a conversion seemed like an ideal solution for solar on apartments, but turned into an ideological battle with the electricity regulator that took months and hundreds of hours of pro bono legal support to resolve.
In this way the Stucco project grew to embody the struggle at the heart of the Australian electricity market: a battle between choice and control, between current regulations that mandate consumers to choose between incumbent retailers, and the public’s aspirations for green self-sufficiency.
A chicken and egg problem
Embedded networks have been around for decades. Yet if the Australian Energy Regulator had its way, they would be banned as soon as possible.
The reason for this is that they inhibit consumers’ choice of retailer: consumers are forced to buy their electricity from the building’s embedded network management company, which may exploit its monopoly power.
Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. At least one company in Germany allows apartment residents to buy power either from their preferred grid retailer or from the building’s solar-powered embedded network. This business model relies on Germany’s Smart meter standards that ensure all market participants can access the data they require.
We currently find ourselves in a standoff. The regulator is waiting on companies to offer solar powered embedded networks that include retail competition, while companies are waiting on the regulator to create an accessible playing field that would make such services viable.
The recently released Finkel Report touches on this by recommending a “review of the regulation of individual power systems and microgrids”.
Stucco’s bespoke solution
In the absence of such a solution, Stucco made a unique agreement with the regulator: the co-op committed to cover fully the costs of installing a grid meter for any unit whose occupant wishes to exit the embedded network in the future.
Such a commitment was feasible because Stucco’s residents, as co-op members, have direct input into the management of the network including controlling (that are mandated to be cheaper than any grid offer). But it is difficult to image regular strata committees accepting such liabilities.
Embedded networks are therefore not the best general solution for retrofitting solar on apartments, at least not under current regulations. This is unfortunate because they represent the best utilisation of an apartment block’s solar resource (Stucco’s system provides more than 75% of the building’s electricity) and are therefore increasingly being adopted by developers.
Advice for apartments
The good news for residents of existing apartments is that there are easier routes to installing solar. The even better news is that the cost of solar systems has plummeted (and continues to do so), while retail rates continue to skyrocket, so much so that body corporates are reporting rates of return of 15-20% on their solar investments.
The recommended options for apartments are epitomised by the old adage “keep it simple”. They fall into two categories: a single solar system to power the common area, or multiple smaller systems powering individual units. Which of these is best suited to a particular apartment depends primarily on the building’s size (as a proxy for its energy demand).
For buildings with 1 square metre of sunny roof space per 2m² of floor space (typically blocks up three stories high), it is worth installing a solar system for each unit, as these will typically be well matched to unit’s consumption.
Taller buildings (with less sunshine per apartment) are better off installing a single system for the common area, particularly if this contains power-hungry elements such as elevators or heating and cooling systems.
But here’s the crux: no apartment can install solar without the political support of its strata committee. While this hurdle has historically tripped up many initiatives, increased public awareness has created a groundswell of support. Plus you may need fewer votes than you think.
To improve the chances of overcoming this barrier I have put together a solar-powered apartment pitch deck, available here.
While this article focuses on solar, it is important to remember that the first priority for any building should be to improve energy efficiency, by installing items such as LED lights, modern appliances, and insulation and draft proofing. For advice on these opportunities see the City of Sydney’s Smart Green Apartments website and the Smart Blocks website.
Lastly, adding batteries to an apartment solar system creates extra challenges, for instance fire-prevention planning. But it allows for far greater energy independence and resilience, and a chance to join the future of distributed energy currently being enjoyed by so many of Australia’s non-strata householders.
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HOAs and solar panels
Solar energy is becoming a hot commodity. In the last decade, solar has experienced an average annual growth rate of 33%. It was once very expensive to purchase solar panels, but costs have declined and incentives are on the rise. As a result, there has been an increase in demand from homeowners for solar panels.
Solar panels do create concerns for HOAs
While solar panels provide a cleaner source of energy and long-term savings to homeowners, they do create some concerns for HOA communities. Governed associations are required to protect and uphold property values and act in the best interests of the community as a whole. They achieve these goals by creating and enforcing standards that address several itemslike home improvements, renovations and additions. This helps ensure that all homes have a similar value and aesthetic.
Solar panels change the look and character of a home, disrupting the uniformity of the neighborhood. In order to help HOAs navigate through this issue, some states have created solar energy laws that attempt to balance a homeowner’s right to use solar energy and an association’s right to manage the aesthetics of the neighborhood.
Solar access rights
California, Utah, Texas, Arizona and Florida have all enacted solar access rights laws. These laws prohibit HOAs from banning owners from installing solar panels on their homes. However, the laws do allow associations to impose reasonable restrictions when it comes to the installation process, placement and design of solar panels.
The association also has the right to require homeowners to request permission from the architectural committee or board before installing solar panels. The body responsible for approving architectural change requests will then process the request using a structured approval procedure.
Solar access rights vary by state, so owners should check state law before they start shopping around for panels.
In states that provide for solar easements, individual owners can negotiate with the people in their HOAs to protect their right to sunshine. They are designed to make sure that a homeowner’s solar panels receive sufficient sunlight. As an example, a neighbor would have to trim their trees down to a certain height so that the leaves won’t prevent light from reaching solar panels on someone’s roof.
Owners wanting to negotiate this type of easement should know that this is a voluntary process, meaning that neighbors do not necessarily have to agree to a solar easement. If a solar easement is drafted, be sure to include a detailed description of the size and height of the easement.
Exceptions to the rules
There are instances where HOAs could deny owners from installing solar panels on their homes, even if solar access rights statutes exist. Historic districts often have the right to restrict solar panel installation in order to protect the historical character of a neighborhood. In other cases, historic districts might ask that solar panels installed on rooftops be hidden from public view, and that any equipment installed be the same color as the roof.
What if there are no state rules for solar panels?
While more states are creating rules to try and encourage the installation and usage of solar panels, not all of them have rules for panel installation. If there aren’t any existing rules, an HOA could rightfully prohibit owners from installing solar panels on their homes.
Aside from aesthetic concerns, solar panel restrictions may be based on concerns about outdated technology. The newer solar systems are light, easy for professionals to install and don’t cause damage to properties (provided they are installed correctly).
In the future, there may be federal rules governing panel installation since the technology has improved so much. In 2009, The American Clean Energy and Security Act was brought forth. This federal law would have made it illegal for a homeowners association to restrict the installation of solar panels. While the act did not pass, similar legislation may come into play again in the next 10 years or so.
HOAs are encouraged to include solar panel rules in governing documents
Some HOAs don’t explicitly mention solar in their bylaws, and this lack of information can lead to disappointment for new members. If solar panels are not allowed, make that clear in the governing documents. This will give prospective buyers who are interested in solar energy the information they need to make the right decision for them.
Removing solar panels
Associations that do allow owners to install solar panels must consider how roof maintenance costs are to be delegated, and what happens if an owner moves out. If owners are already responsible for paying for their own roof maintenance, then there is little question about who must pay for any costs associated with the solar panels. This can become more complicated if the HOA is responsible for maintaining the roof, however.
Solar panels can last for 25 years, and, because they have such a long lifespan, they may need to be removed and reinstalled in order to perform roof maintenance. It is possible to remove and reinstall panels, but depending on how many panels there are, that job could cost a few thousand dollars.
It’s also possible to remove panels entirely, full removal without the intention of reinstalling is a more costly project though. That’s because all of the conduit, electrical wiring and roof penetrations must be sealed and undone as if the system never existed. The owner should also be aware that if they don’t yet own the solar system, or are still in the process of paying it off, they may have to pay an additional removal fee. The HOA must make it clear that it is the current owner’s responsibility to remove the system and repair the roof if a new buyer doesn’t want the panels on the home.
Although solar panel installers usually drill holes into the roof to secure the hardware, there are alternative options. One popular option is to install solar roof tiles or solar shingles. This technology integrates the electricity-generating capacity of photovoltaics (PV) right into an owner’s roof shingles and eliminates the need for mounting traditional panels. This solar energy option has many aesthetic benefits, but also costs more and is less efficient than traditional panels.
On the off chance that the HOA has flat roofs, an installation company could use a ballast mounting system. With this type of system, the mounts are weighted down well enough and holes don’t need to be made in the roof. Finally, ground mount solar systems exist, but they require more space, more money and specific soil requirements. Due to HOA rules and architectural guidelines, it’s unlikely that owners would be permitted to install ground mounts.
Solar panels appeal to owners for several reasons. Not only do they help reduce carbon emissions, but they can provide long-term savings as well. Many states are recognizing the benefits of solar energy, which is why they have created rules to promote panel installation.
Understandably, HOAs may have some concerns about solar panels. Owners and boards are encouraged to work together if an owner comes to a board asking for permission to install solar panels. Associations should be very clear about the application process and what is and is not permitted. Similarly, owners should closely follow rules and requirements while being considerate of their fellow neighbors.
Solar Panels on Strata Buildings – Best Solar Power Solutions
Installing solar panels on the strata buildings can be a right opportunity for you to save more on bills. Strata buildings are the final rooftop frontiers receiving maximum sunshine.
Top solar is specialized in assisting you choosing the best Solar Panels on Strata Buildings and the committee of experts on your approval.
So in today’s blog we are going to deal on topic solar panels on strata buildings. Thus if you are also considering the same it’s important for you to be aware of the challenges you may come up against.
Solar For Strata Is Tricky: Here’s why?
When the roof area is a common property you will need to pass a special resolution as per law. Earlier 75% of vote was required to get the validations but the NSW government has reduce it to 50%.
Generally the process for such projects is slow plus you may have to incur additional costs.
- Solar Panels For Apartment Balcony, buildings will need crane hiring and traffic control permission from local council
- In case of no or little space for the new installations – new long cable run will be needed. Also incurring some cost for drilling through the floors.
- Making fair and equitable division of roof space so that there is no issue to tackle with the electricity bill thereof.
You can also install such solar panels on shared roof which can divide power units between those who participate
- Strata complex consists of renters and owners. Thus the solar incentive you get may differ on which person you are.
Options to Install Solar Power On Strata Buildings
Despite these complications here we present you the four most potential solutions of solar panels strata townhouse – starting from easiest and simple to sophisticated definite.
Option 1: Solar System For Common Areas
The strata buildings have a common meter for the lights and other communal equipment running on energy. This option is best for those tall buildings or apartment blocks with smaller roof space.
This will be beneficial for everyone as the communal cost will be in the form of reduce strata bills.
Also the cost of purchasing a solar system can be relatively lower if there are no huge electric devices – like swimming pools, air conditioning or communal lifts.
- Most simple and easiest way to install solar pv system with a common area meter
- benefit of reduce cost to all the owners on solar system
Going for quotes for your solar strata it’s important to get the most dependable solar installers and experts who can give you utmost satisfaction.
Topsolar has a network of Best Solar Panel Installer NSW giving you the best local options with right experience.
Options 2: Each Unit Gets A Separately-Metered Solar System
This solution is best for the common areas whose bills are not bigger in amounts and the individual unit owners or tenants are more interested in getting the benefits of solar.
Still at this point the question arises for roof allocation.
Normally this consideration doesn’t comes in many minds when they purchase unit but to install a solar system for their unit can be one such issue to arise.
- Adequate roof space makes each unit to have their own solar with individual meter. This mean no question need to be ask on what benefits or solar energy consumption or savings to be share.
- Individual unit have the option to own solar panel system separately
- Difficulty in distribution of roof space for separate units.
- Individual systems can be expensive on per watt compare to solar for standalone home affecting your financial cost.
- Group of owners and tenants can be difficult for the body corporate to sign off
Option 3: A Single Solar System Shared To Individual Apartments
This one is a new approach comparatively to other options. In this system the solar energy from a single rooftop solar is distributed among multiple apartments within the same place.
Additionally in this system you also get energy monitoring software – keeping a record of how much of energy you are using throughout the day.
- Any meter unit can be connected including common light and power.
- Individual units can opt out it do not want the solar connection.
- No complications for individual roof space ownership as the system cost is incur by the owner corporation.
- No change to make in metering infrastructure – independent right to select their electricity retailer.
- Only 50% of voting for approval is require [ 75% in few states of Australia]
- Too much costly thus it will be better to have 5 or more owners to pay for the system
- New process cannot be sure if its available for your place in Australia. You need to figure out whether your apartment or building is suitable or not!
Option 4: Single System With Embedded Network
This one is the most complex form of installing solar on strata house if your building has not set up embedded network.
Basically embedded network is a private micro grid within the building. Here the individual units are measure separately connected to the building grid.
This helps you in getting cheaper rates for electricity whether solar installed or not.
But here the first hurdle you may face is getting the approval from strata committee before taking any action. Secondly you have to get the approval from the Embedded Network Manager [ENM] of national electricity market [NEM].
- Equitable way to supply solar energy in a strata building also causing full utilization of solar energy produced. (i.e. ‘more’ solar energy available for consumption along with solar feed in credits)
- Single electricity bill with accurate charges and credits for each unit
- Can be prohibitively costly process to initiate – especially if it is a retrofit solution instead of new development
- Confusion among the strata committee in deciding the best approach among the variety of wide range of suppliers approaches
- Number of questions redressal in front of red tape associated with power of choice regulations
Now you can move forward with investing in your solar strata. But choosing a brilliant team of experts is equally important for solar installations.
That’s why let Top Solar Quote guide you further.
Top Solar Quote – Get Best Quotes For Solar On Strata Investments
Once you have decided your options, there is the question of which one is most appropriate for your situation.
Top Solar issues quotes for a wide range of solar projects – including apartment buildings – and are happy to have a no-obligation chat.
Our team try its best to take you beyond in the field of solar panels and energy consumption in Australia.
Our valuable customers including both homeowners as well as business houses are a testimony to our skill and quality of service in providing Best Solar Power NSW Quotes.
Being an active contributor in shaping the solar future we are committed in providing green energy accessible to people all across Australia.
Solar panels strata townhouse
Notable Solar Installations in Washington
- Adams Nielson in Lind was developed by Strata Solar and came online in 2018. This 28 MW project produces enough electricity to power 3,053 homes.
- IKEA, Walmart, and FedEx have all gone solar in Washington. IKEA’s 1.2 MW project in Renton is one of the largest corporate projects in the sate.
- At 6.4 MW,Penstemon Solar Project in Ellensburg is among the largest solar installations in Washington. Completed by TUUSO Energy in 2022, this solar project has enough electric capacity to power more than 698 homes.
Check out our Major Solar Projects List for more notable installations.
Solar Companies in Washington
Looking for a local installer? Use SolarReviews to get company reviews and estimates for solar in your area. You can also view the average costs for installing solar in Washington, based on real price data from installed systems and solar quotes.
If you’re looking for information about local solar companies, check out EnergySage’s list of solar companies in Washington, where you can check out information about each company and see real customer reviews.
Washington State Solar Policy Resources
DSIRE Incentives Database. Washington – Search a public clearinghouse for specific solar energy incentives in Washington and across the United States
Solar Panel Cost in Washington. Learn about the history of solar policy in Washington, along with up-to-date pricing information on EnergySage
Solar Rebates Incentives in Washington. Check out EnergySage’s list of key solar incentives in Washington to see what programs you can benefit from
U.S. Energy Information Administration. Washington State Profile – Explore official energy statistics, including data on electricity supply and demand, from the U.S. government
Washington State Legislature – Track pending legislation affecting solar energy, locate and contact individual legislators, and stay up to date on current legislative issues in Washington
Washington Solar Panels Overview. Learn about the history of solar policy in Washington, along with up-to-date pricing information on EnergySage
Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission – Learn about the governing body that regulates the electricity rates and services of Washington public utilities