Keeping solar panel projects in the community

If you’re in a shared building, installing solar panels can be a challenge. But not one that’s insurmountable…

In this Article:
Only 0.6% of apartment buildings in AU have solar.
New government incentives could change that.
A NSW solar garden provides an interesting alternative.

When you think about solar panels on a property, you usually think of panels on an individual residential home or a commercial building.

And that’s generally a pretty straightforward proposition.

What about solar on strata properties, however?

Today, strata buildings in Australia consume seven per cent of the national electricity grid, which means $1.7bn is spent by the occupiers of strata buildings.

While 22 per cent of residential homes in Australia have solar, only 0.6 per cent of apartment buildings have installed solar panels. And, given the growth of apartment living in Australia, it’s little wonder authorities are focused on finding solutions.

Australian government incentives for community solar projects

A couple of years ago, for example, the NSW Government reduced the previously required 75 per cent of owners to agree with solar being installed in a strata building to 50 per cent, while in June 2023, the Federal Government announced it would be co-investing $100m into shared solar systems that will provide cheaper power for more than 25,000 households.

The Federal Government is partnering with state and territory governments to roll out the program over the next couple of years (from June 2023-2025), and one of the first cabs off the community solar ranks is a project in the ACT, with a co-funded $3.6m in rebates and concessional loans going to body corporates that install solar at their multi-unit dwellings.

It’s going to be an interesting one to watch over the coming years and should provide opportunities for those contractors who also work in solar installation.

Growing a solar garden

An alternative to physically installing solar panels on the roof of an apartment building – or indeed any building – could lie in a solar garden.

A solar garden is a cooperative approach to accessing the benefits of solar without the installation.

This is particularly appealing for people who either may not be able to install or may not want to install – for example, people who may be planning on moving home in the not-too-distant future.

One such project here in Australia is the Haystacks Solar Garden at Grong Grong in the Riverina region of NSW. The 1.5 megawatt project enables people to purchase a ‘plot’ in the solar panel-filled garden, and a participating electricity retailer will credit the bill.

A benefit is, of course, the lack of installation work and maintenance required – while it’s also completely portable, meaning people can move home without having to reinstall solar along the way.

A floating community solar panel project

That community approach to solar isn’t new, however. Both here and overseas, community solar projects are growing and growing.

For example, in France, you’ll find a large community solar project – and this one is floating.

Located in the town of Piolenc in the South of France, this floating project is the first of its kind in Europe, with floating PV panels on the surface of a lake in an abandoned quarry.

The site consists of 47,000 panels, and creates the equivalent electricity consumption of the municipality of Piolenc.

Just goes to show – a rooftop isn’t always required!

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