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Case Study: Install solar for common areas

Catherine Lezer , 1 Botany St, Waterloo, Sydney

Catherine Lezer

A 30 unit residential apartment building is one of the first strata buildings in the City of Sydney to install solar PV to supply power for common areas.

You can do this project!

The 4.9kW system (15 panels) is anticipated to reduce common area electricity bills by 20% with a 5.5 year payback period. 

"The PV system cost $14,000 and a City of Sydney Innovation grant halved the payback period to 2 years" Catherine Lezer, Executive Committee Chairperson

An initial energy assessment by Energy Smart Strata recommended a 15kW system for their common area power usage at that time. After implementing the "low hanging fruit" recommendations from the assessment – primarily retrofitting sensor LED lighting to common areas - electricity usage dropped by 49% in 2 years.

This meant the size of the array could then be "right sized" to 5kw, a third of the size and cost.

"We approached nine companies and received four official quotes. We went with Dunne Solar who we considered the most professional, competent and reliable provider. We feel confident this is the correct solution for us as the system is right sized and they are Clean Energy Council certified.

Dunne were competent at dealing with Strata and willing to wait out the grant period and not change prices on us.  We also checked Dunne Solar references, warranties and previous projects and found them to be all satisfactory.

We checked with the planning duty officer at the Redfern Neighbourhood centre. The angle of the solar panels projection from our almost flat roof will not exceed 0.5m, which means it meets the council guidelines for Exempt Development"

The project took 18 months from inception to installation and the building will receive 6 monthly energy use reports to track reductions and savings. 

"Access to the roof was one of the trickiest issues. One of the penthouse owners kindly allowed her balcony to be used as a staging point as the panels couldn’t fit through the roof access manhole"

Catherine’s tips

Get all your other energy efficient projects completed first so you don’t have to go back for updated quotes.

Ensure that you will have access to the roof adequate for the size of the panels. 

Make sure the solar array is slightly under capacity as selling energy back to the grid creates tax issues.

Appoint a subcommittee to make the decisions within a defined budget.

Check with Council about DA requirements early.