With the current cost of living crisis showing no signs of easing, strata management and body corporate committees are installing solar panels to reduce their energy costs. In this Q and A, Savant Energy’s Commercial and Project Implementation Manager Dan Porter explains the benefits of switching to solar and how committees can save on their electricity bills and hot water costs.
As energy prices continue to rise, many body corporates are looking at ways to reduce their common area electricity costs and solar is a good way to achieve this. It also helps increase the value of a property and, when combined with a solar battery, can be used to boost the building’s available electricity for other purposes like electric vehicle (EV) charging. Using renewable energy can also make a property more attractive to renters because of its improved sustainability credentials.
PV systems, which use solar panels to produce electricity from the sun, are the more popular choice for communities compared to solar hot water. Solar hot water, also called solar pre-heat, can be a good solution to add onto an existing centralised gas hot water system.
That said, we’re seeing more communities remove their gas systems entirely and replace them with fully electric systems (i.e. heat pumps). These fully electric systems take advantage of solar generated electricity from the photovoltaic systems.
Having an accredited installer conduct a preliminary site inspection of your property is the best way to assess if your building is suitable for solar power. Some considerations include roof shading, roof structure and available roof space for panels. In the case of an older buildings, your solar installer will also be able to let you know if an electricity meter or switchboard upgrade is needed.
Yes. In some circumstances there may not be any spare roof space for panels, or the roof is always in shade, or the roof may not structurally be able to handle the additional weight of the system. Your installer will be able to assist with identifying any potential issues for installation.
They key to a good solar installation is ensuring you use a Clean Energy Council (CEC) approved installer and, if possible, have an independent body (e.g. a sustainable energy solution provider) review your electricity bills to ensure the right size solar system is being proposed. Many installers will suggest the biggest possible system for the available roof space which can quite often lead to an overspend of capital that won’t provide any additional benefit.
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Generally, the process from initial site inspection to installation can be achieved in a month but it all depends on installer and product availability. We’ve seen some extended wait times for particular panels and inverters but your solar company will be your best guide for confirming installation timeframes from start to finish.
All solar systems need to be approved by the electricity distributor in your state or territory before being installed. Your installer should apply to your local electricity distributor on your behalf to gain approval before proceeding with installation and should provide you with confirmation of this approval. Your installer will also assist in notifying your current electricity retailer that you are installing solar so they can credit you for any excess solar generated electricity that is fed to the grid (i.e. feed in tariff).
The cost of solar installation depends on several factors including roof accessibility, roof structure type, cable run length from the panels to inverters etc. There are also many types of panels and inverters to choose from which impact the overall system cost. The general rule of thumb is that most commercial solar installations will cost around $1000 – $1500 per kilowatt (kW) after the Federal Government’s small-scale technology certificate (STC) rebate has been applied. This means a 10kW system should typically cost around $10,000 – $15,000.
Solar installations are relatively straight forward. They can generally be installed in one day by a team of installers but it depends on the complexity of installation (i.e. access to roof etc.).
The installers will secure the panel rails to your roof, run the cable down to the inverter location, instal the inverter and wire it to the switchboard and then fix the panels to the rails. The last thing the installer will do is connect the cabling from the panels to the inverter and your community can start enjoying free energy from the sun.
Most committees fund solar installation through their sinking fund or through a special levy to owners. Many installers also offer an interest free payment plan for corporations so ask about this when you make your initial enquiries. Corporations can also ask their local Whittles Body Corporate Manager to find out if a specialist strata finance loan is an option to fund solar installation at their property.
Federal and state governments, as well as local councils, have various grants available for sustainability initiatives across various property types too so check their websites to see what assistance is available. Your installer will automatically apply the Federal Government’s STC rebate to your quote.
Savings vary from property to property depending on overall energy consumption and solar system size but, in most cases, a properly sized solar system should deliver a payback of three to four years at most. If your payback period is longer than that, your solar system may be too big for your needs. There can also be extenuating circumstances where an installation is more complex, and incurs extra expenses, which can affect the total cost and payback time.
Yes. Owners typically cover common area electricity costs through their strata contributions so lower energy costs should mean lower contributions.
Installing solar panels offer several benefits. A solar system can reduce your common area electricity costs which means lower owner contributions over time. Making the switch to solar can also increase the value of your property and make it more attractive to purchasers and renters looking for buildings with sustainable features. Make sure you use a CEC approved installer and choose a system that matches your energy consumption.
Like to know more about installing solar panels at your property? Contact your local Whittles team who can help your strata management committee, or owners corporation, on the path to switching to solar.
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Updated: 15 Feb 2024