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Case Study: Install solar for common areas

Matthew Race, Vista 8, Melbourne

Matthew Race

“I personally believe that the entire building should be sustainable, especially when living in such a progressive city.”

You can do this project!

The owners corporation at Vista 8 had a vision to transition the Student Housing Australia’s residential property to become a more sustainable building.

“I’ve lived here for two years”, explains executive committee member Matthew Race, “but in January 2015, I looked over the building finances and realised that we could save a few thousand dollars by changing the waste systems contract and introducing recycling to the building through the City of Melbourne.”

Though participating in City of Melbourne’s High Rise Recycling Project, Matthew learnt about other opportunities, such as the Green Money Recycling Program and the Smart Blocks solar rebates for apartments.

Solar at Vista 8

Built in 2007, the building at 593 Elizabeth St contains sixty student accommodation units across its seven levels. The student accommodation has an embedded network provider supplying electricity to primarily tenanted residents.

“I personally believe that the entire building should be sustainable, especially when living in such a progressive city,” explains Matthew who also runs Negawatt Australia, an LED, solar & battery storage installation company. “We had a suitable roof space and can use a solar installation as leverage to encourage residents and owners to become more sustainable so the building can eventually become carbon neutral.”

Hearing about the City of Melbourne’s Smart Blocks rebate drove the forward the plan to install a solar system.

“Rebates are a great incentive for buildings to look into sustainability,” says Matthew. “It’s great that the City of Melbourne funds projects like this to empower residents in this way.”

According to Matthew, the electricity generated by the 10.4 kW system would primarily be used for common areas, and any additional energy would be redistributed into general electricity demand across the building, utilising the entire production capacity on site.

Financing the system

The $24,830 solar array and installation cost was covered by the substantial surplus in owners corporation account, with support from the City of Melbourne’s Smart Blocks rebate. The average annual output of the 10.4 kW system was calculated at 12,560 kWh, and expected to pay itself off within 5.85 years.

“If had my time again, I would actually try and maximise the size of the system, over its value for money,” explains Matthew. “I’d rather increase the sustainability aspect rather than just focusing on the financial case.”

Benefits

The 10.4 kW solar system at Vista 8 is expected to result in an increase in property value, reduced operational expenditure, improved building sustainability, and a consistent return on investment.

The plan to install a solar system would benefit both owners and occupants through the reduction of energy bills and environmental footprint and subsequent increase in property value.

In addition to the financial benefits, the solar system is predicted to save 152 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over the next 10 years, enough to fill 34 Olympic sized swimming pools.

Advice for other buildings

In terms of advice for other buildings looking to install solar, Matthew recommends persistence in following your values.

“Follow your values, take advantage of the government incentives on offer, and be the leaders of change in your buildings. And persist - persistence is definitely the key to getting projects like this off the ground.”