FAQs on solar battery trial

Wednesday, September 30, 2015 | News

Your questions answered – shared solar power at WGV


Shared solar power and battery storage technology in a strata development is being trialled in an Australian first at WGV’s Gen Y Demonstration Housing Project.


It is no surprise that interest in this exciting trial is high. More than 1.4 million homes in Australia have solar panels, with more than 190,000 of these in WA. However few strata housing developments or apartments feature solar panels.  The reasons for this are several fold but include because often strata are investor owned and tenant occupied and there is little economic incentive for installing renewable energy as the tenant benefits with no benefit passed onto the owner.  To devise a solar system on strata has also presented some technological challenges and so developers for the most part have found it too challenging to pursue.


But as the State’s housing market evolves and we see more apartment and strata developments, the demand for renewable energy will continue to grow. The challenge has been how to effectively adopt these sources in a strata setting. 


The approach to be trialled at the Gen Y Demonstration Housing Project, as announced on 9 September 2015 , creates a micro-grid for the building, so it can generate and store its own power. Tenants pay their electricity bill to the strata company, rather than to the utility, which provides an additional revenue stream to the owner to justify the capital investment in renewables.


This trial demonstrates how renewable energy can be adopted in a strata setting. It will provide an open source framework transferable for the rest of the property industry and hopefully result in greater adoption of carbon-free electricity sources across the sector.

Here are some frequently asked questions relating to the trial.


Why is this research so important?

This research could help us unlock the potential for renewable energy to be used in apartment buildings and strata developments across the State and across the nation.


We know that there are more than 60,000 strata schemes in WA and thousands more across Australia. This trial will help us test the viability of residents sharing renewable energy in medium density developments.


As our population grows to an expected 3.5 million people by 2050, we need to respond to demand by providing sustainable housing in the medium density segment of the market.


How does the system work?

Essentially, an energy micro-grid system is developed for the building that residents then use to source their power from. The system is grid connected as a back up. Solar PV panels on rooftops generate electricity, providing electricity to house holds, excess solar electricity is stored in the strata-owned battery. When the sun is not shining, the households source their power from the battery, and then when that is depleted the grid is used as a backup.


This allows for the majority of residents’ electricity needs to be met by the energy generated from the building’s solar PV panels. The strata company manages the billing system with residents paying their electricity bills to the strata company instead of an energy retailer.


A fact sheet showing the design and metering of the trial can be viewed here.


Why isn’t solar power currently used in strata or apartment complexes?

Currently solar PV systems are not widely used in strata and apartment complexes. This is partly due to uncertainty around effective sharing of the benefits, risks and costs between developers, owners, tenants, strata bodies and utilities.


Where they are used, usual practice involves developers wiring solar panels to individual dwellings which significantly limits the potential economic benefit of solar power.


The shared solar power and battery storage technology being trialled at WGV offers a new framework which addresses these issues.


Can power generated through the system be fed back into the grid?

Excess electricity from the solar panels will be uploaded to the grid. Battery stored electricity will not be fed to the grid - it will only be used for household consumption.


Who is leading this research?

Curtin University Research Fellow Jemma Green and WA’s internationally renowned sustainable development expert Professor Peter Newman have developed a governance framework to adopt solar power in strata housing complexes.


This research intends to overcome some of the challenges to the uptake of renewable energy infrastructure on strata development or units.


This framework will be trialled at the Gen Y Demonstration Housing Project at WGV. The four-year trial will show how renewable energy can be adopted in a strata setting, providing a framework that will be transferable across the property industry.


What will this trial achieve?

The trial will de-risk this technology for developers, demonstrating demand in the property market for this type of offering in strata housing.


It will also provide a governance framework which strata developments can use to enhance their product offering. The trial will also demonstrate how low cost and low carbon living are intimately related.


Will this technology be affordable?

As the price of solar PV and batteries continue to decline and the price of grid‑based energy continues to rise, market demand for solar and batteries will increase and this approach to renewable energy on strata will likely reach the mainstream.


What at the benefits of this technology?

This technology will result in a greater adoption of carbon-free electricity sources. It is a positive step in reducing the use of non-renewable carbon intensive such as coal and gas resources to produce energy.


Owners can also provide electricity at a discounted rate to tenants, who pay their electricity bill to the strata company. Owner-occupiers and tenants receive carbon-free electricity, and pay no more than if buying electricity from an energy retailer. Property owners are then provided with an additional revenue stream that can be used to justify the capital investment in the technology.


How will the success of the trial be monitored?

The trial will be the subject of a four-year research project supported by the Cooperative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living, to monitor and assess energy efficiency and technology performance.


The research program follows a ‘Living Laboratory’ approach, where innovations are tested using real projects, with the aim of informing policy and industry outcomes. This research will follow the development process from construction through to occupancy.


Why WGV?

As WA’s first recognised sustainable community built on One Planet Living key principles, LandCorp’s WGV at White Gum Valley development is the ideal project to trial this innovative technology. LandCorp delivers infill, industrial and urban renewal developments with Innovation through Demonstration projects championing change and ground-breaking technologies.


The WGV redevelopment is in line with Government policy Perth &Peel@3.5 million to provide diverse housing options and optimise the use of existing infrastructure while catering for ongoing population growth in metropolitan Perth.


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