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Solar systems

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Solar systems generate energy from the sun and can significantly reduce energy bills for both common areas and individual apartments.

Solar panels are normally installed on the roof, but can also be placed on the side of your building or on other structures.

Installing a solar system can reduce energy bills and provide your building with emissions free electricity.

The payback period on the installation of an appropriately sized solar system can be within five to nine years1. This means you can quickly make returns on your up-front investment.

With over 1 million Australian homes benefitting from solar it's clear that solar is an increasingly desirable feature. Installing a solar system can not only make your building more attractive to property buyers and tenants, but can potentially improve resale values and occupancy rates.

Solar systems projects

Things to consider

Installing a solar system can take time, but the end result will be worth the effort. It's a good idea to consult an expert who can help you to determine the right size solar system for your building, review costs, and recommend quality panels from reliable manufacturers.

Energy efficiency first

Solar should always be considered in combination with energy efficiency measures. Avoiding unnecessary energy use will be more cost-effective and environmentally sustainable than just installing a solar system.

Payback period

To get the quickest payback from your solar system, the system size should match your daytime electricity consumption so that all the energy generated is used on site.

Who is involved and why?

 

  • Owners corporation: approves expenditure and authorises the project
  • Technical expert: recommends design and size of your solar system
  • Solar installer: installs the system and provides warranty and arranges grid connection
  • Electricity retailer: sets the feed-in tariff and electricity bill structure
  • Electricity distributor: connects the solar system to the grid
  • Local council: provides planning approval if required and general assistance

Suitable locations

Check your apartment building for places where solar panels could be mounted. This might be on the roof, external walls, facades, or even above windows. Solar panels need as much sun a possible so ensure any surrounding buildings or trees will not overshadow them.

The average solar panel is about 1.6 metres long and 0.8 metres wide.

A 1kW solar panel system will require around 8-10 square metres of roof space, and a 1.5kW solar panel system requires around 12 square metres of roof space.

How many solar panels?

The more solar panels your system has, the more energy it will generate. Electricity generated by your solar panels will either be used immediately within your building, or fed into the mains grid if the appliances and equipment in your building do not require electricity at the time it is being generated. 

To get the quickest payback from your solar system, the size of the system should be matched to your building's daytime energy consumption. This ensures that all the energy generated is used within your building immediately. When you obtain a quote from an installer ensure that they estimate how much energy the system will generate for each month of the year and recommend a system that matches your building's energy use. 

Batteries

Over the next decade, battery storage is set to become a significant component of building energy management – with potential in the residential and commercial building sectors. This is due to the falling costs and increased performance of stationery energy storage technology.

The most common storage chemistry used in residential and small commercial systems in Australia remain has been lead-acid. However as demand for more advanced energy storage grows, there is an increasing focus on lithium-based batteries, which have seen considerable advancements in recent years and a steady decrease in cost as manufacturing scale has increased.

Lithium batteries offer far better system performance with regards to useable energy capacity – this means more of your solar energy can be utilised at times when the sun isn’t shining.

The overall benefit of battery storage coupled with solar PV, will be different for different sites – each site should be assessed on its merits and by a qualified installer. Generally speaking, those buildings with high energy demand outside of daytime hours are likely to benefit from being able to store solar energy for later use. If a building’s energy demand is significant during the daytime, when a solar can supply this demand directly, then there may be less use for battery storage.

For more information on battery storage visit the Clean Energy Council's battery storage FAQs page.

Funding and Rebates

1) Solar systems are eligible for Small-Scale Technology Certificates (STCs). The installer normally handles these certificates, which means you get an up-front discount on the cost of your system. The rebate varies by location but is normally $500 to $600 for a one-kilowatt system.

2) Some solar installers offer financing schemes in which your bill savings outweigh your loan repayments.  

3) If installing solar for common areas, some local councils are starting to offer funding via Environmental Upgrade Agreements in which the solar owner pays back the cost of the system via council rates. Ask your local council for advice on available rebates and funding options. 

4) If you have a grid-connected solar system you can sell excess electricity back to the grid through your electricity retailer via a feed-in tariff at a fixed-rate paid per kWh of solar electricity exported to the grid. Check with your current retailer about their rates and tariffs or compare offers from different energy retailers in your state or territory.

When choosing an offer, consider not only the feed-in tariff rate but also how much you will pay per kWh for the electricity you purchase over and above what your solar system can produce. Remember that a higher feed-in tariff is not always an indicator of the best deal overall. 

1 Payback period statistic sourced from Alternative Technology Association