Australia has one of the highest per capita and rooftop penetration rates of solar power in the world. Our position at the top of the rankings is largely because we have historically had strong support programs and more recently, dramatic increases in electricity rates which make solar a fantastic financial proposition.
However, so far the bulk of uptake has been on owner-occupied, free standing dwellings, largely due to the nature of rebates being offered and also because of the complexity of installing on rental and apartment blocks. But thanks to a fantastic new program, this may be set to change, opening the path to much wider adoption.
Smart Blocks is a new national program designed to specifically assist apartment owners and building managers to save money by improving energy efficiency and using renewable energy in apartment buildings. The program was developed in partnership between Strata Community Australia, City of Sydney, City of Melbourne, Green Strata and Owners Corporation Network of Australia and with the assistance of apartment owners, strata managers and facilities managers.
The key to the program is a valuable toolkit and a growing number of case studies, describing the many ways apartment dwellers can save on the energy costs. However, rebates are now on offer to residential strata buildings in the City of Melbourne area who want to install solar systems or undertake lighting upgrades that improve energy efficiency in common areas. Rebates of up to 50% of the project cost to a maximum value of $3000 are available. The City of Melbourne can also provide some project support and access to technical advice.
Importantly, a number of new and lower cost monitoring solutions can really contribute to easier solutions too. The rapid advancements in monitoring and metering devices mean that apartment owners can much more easily collect analyse and manage their consumption and generation, and wireless communication systems avoid the need for complex and expensive cabling. Highly modular systems using (for example) microinverters can provide detailed information and allow for staged deployment–a crucial factor where many owners might be involved and have different timing around their ability to install solar.
As costs continue to fall and technology makes solutions cleverer, access to savings and cleaner energy for apartment owners might just be here faster than we thought.
Top image credit: Chensiyuan via Wikipedia
© 2014 Solar Choice Pty Ltd
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