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Case Study: Install solar for your apartment

Jeremy, West Melbourne

Jeremy

"We installed a 3 kilowatt system to power our apartment with clean energy."

You can do this project!

Jeremy and his partner have long had a dream. They want a home in the heart of the city that is flooded with light and most importantly, is as sustainable as possible.

Slowly but surely, thanks to some strategic work at their warehouse apartment in West Melbourne, their dream is coming true.

Built in 1959, their building was once a Western Star butter factory. Nestled on the edge of the CBD, it was turned into apartments in the 1990s and still features the original steel trusses and tiling. Despite its proximity to Melbourne’s skyscrapers, the building’s north-west facing roof has a perfect angle for solar panels.

Choosing a solar installer
Jeremy asked three companies to inspect the site and quote for a solar system installation. The quotes varied, so Jeremy devised a table so he could compare how much electricity the different systems would generate, the cost of installation, warranties, servicing, micro-inverters and so on.

He decided on Metro Solar, a company that ticked all the boxes and had a specialised technical person in the team who answered his questions.

The first resolution
The roof space where the panels would be installed is common property so Jeremy needed sign-off from the executive committee before the solar installation could proceed. Jeremy sent a resolution to his Executive Committee (EC) with Metro Solar’s quote and scoping documentation. The EC decided the proposal did not contain enough information, so rejected the resolution.

Not deterred, Jeremy called and emailed his neighbours to understand specific concerns about the solar panels so he could address them before once again putting the motion forward. He organised a meeting to discuss the project and addressed their concerns about potential water ingress, glare and whether the solar panels would sit within the boundaries of his apartment’s roofline.

The EC had paid to fix numerous roof leaks in the building for several years and were reluctant to open a new potential can of worms. They were concerned installing solar panels could potentially damage the roof, and as the roof is common property, the owners’ corporation would be liable – in which case everyone would have to pay.

Addressing concerns
Jeremy asked the solar technician for more information on how the panels would be installed. They gave him photographs of the solar panel rails and feet, with details on how the rubber seals and l-brackets on the mounting feet would fit over existing screws, removing the need to drill more holes in the roof and reducing the likelihood of leaking. He also asked his architect for technical drawings of the roof to demonstrate that the panels would stay within his title and not overlap onto his neighbour’s title.

Jeremy even placed cheap wardrobe mirrors onto the roof and positioned them where the panels would lie for a few days, to make sure the solar panels would not cause glare and reflection in his neighbour’s apartment.

Project approved
Jeremy presented a detailed document containing all of this information, as well as a Smart Blocks case study about a nearby biscuit factory, to the next EC meeting.

He also offered to accept liability for any water leakage issues that might arise from the installation. He was comfortable to do so, as he understood exactly how the panels would be installed and knew he would be backed up by a 15-year installer warranty.

Jeremy’s neighbours were satisfied and the motion passed. 

Installation day
Jeremy watched most of the solar panel installation so he could confidently reassure his neighbours that the contractors had drilled no new holes in the roof. They actually added new silicone seals to the screws, which made the roof even more water tight.

Metro Solar also installed micro-inverters to help capture more solar power, given the panels would be partially shaded at certain points of the day.

The results
The 10 panels (3kW system) and installation cost roughly $5,000, and Jeremy plans to keep the panels – and potentially take them should he ever relocate – for a good 25 years. Already, his electricity bill has more than halved, and he expects the panels to completely pay for themselves within just five years.

Jeremy’s advice
Jeremy took advantage of what he describes as the ‘era of Ikea solar’. Systems like his are affordable, widely accessible and easy to install. The solar companies he spoke to all had heavy workloads, demonstrating the incredible demand for renewable energy.

Jeremy’s solar project is a great example of good communication. Ultimately, he believes communicating with his neighbours was key to its success. After all – they all live within 20 metres of each other, so coming up with solutions that satisfied everyone really mattered.

Jeremy and his partner are thrilled with the result. Eventually, they hope to store the energy from their solar panels in a battery, and get completely off the grid. That will be the icing on the cake.