Solar Power for Common Property & Personal Use | WallisView

WallisView
  • 27 residential lots
  • Completed 1987
  • 3 residential floors
  • ground level car parking
  • 4 shared commercial washing machines
  • 2 shared commercial clothes dryers
  • 2 electric BBQs
  • originally constructed as serviced (holiday) apartments
  • converted to Strata Title in 1996

This case study from "WallisView" demonstrates some of the dynamics of decision-making in Strata complexes and how results can be achieved with good communication and flexibility.

Project Overview

WallisView installed a 10kW solar array - 2.5kW used by the owners corporation and 1.5kW for each of five owners - on the common property roof of the building, primarily to offset rising electricity costs.

The north-facing roof could physically accommodate a further 15 x 1.5kW systems, and the remaining 6 systems could go on the west-facing roof.

Rebates & Incentives

At the time they were able to take advantage of the NSW Solar Bonus Scheme (now discontinued) and were eligible for Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). The installer applied the credits as a discount on the purchase price of the system.

The owners corporation received RECs of $5,270 and it and each proprietor received a further $1,990 from the supplier as multi-installation / site discount.

Alternatives considered

WallisView had considered solar hot water, but the weight of the preferred system/s was an issue when mounted on the tiled roof of the building.

Product / Service providers

None of the service providers they dealt with had any knowledge of strata, and some had little knowledge about solar installations in anything other than very basic domestic situations. It seemed that some suppliers were simply opportunists, taking advantage of the government rebates.

Pricing

The total cost of the installed system was $30,000 including $6,000 to meet the mandated upgrade to electricity supply metering in the common property meter room as required by Country Energy (now Essential Energy).

The owners corporation’s share was funded from the Sinking Fund, and each of the 5 owners funded the service for their individual units.

At the then-current retail electricity prices and with a  $0.60 / kWh feed-in tariff , the payback period was calculated at 3 years for the owners corporation, and 4 years for each of the five owners.

Decision-making process

The decision to proceed was made at the Annual General Meeting. There were no objections because all the research on the required meter room upgrades, panels, inverters, and prices for each was done prior to the AGM.

Although only 5 of the 27 owners elected to join the project at the time that the decision was made, there was subsequent interest from others. That waned however when those owners realised that their tenants would receive the benefit, and when the feed-in tariff was reduced to $0.20 / kWh.

By-laws

It was also necessary to register a new Special By-Law, stipulating the terms and conditions under which individuals could install solar systems on the common property rooftop.

Special By-law: Hot Water Systems and Solar Systems located on Common Property

Disclaimer: This by-law is provided for guidance only. Legal advice should be sought to ensure an appropriate by-law is used in each circumstance. Green Strata accepts no responsibility for the use of this by-law.

Relevant Legislation

Legislation that was relevant for this installation included:

  • NSW Strata Schemes Management Act (1996) – to approve installations on common property, both by the owners corporation and individual owners.
  • NSW Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 (now repealed for the introduction of national legislation) – for WorkCover requirements regarding working on the roof of the building.
  • Country Energy also used the owners corporation’s proposal as justification to require substantial upgrades to the metering in the common property meter room and for the layout of the meters to be changed.

Results & Savings

Thus far, the owners corporation’s invoiced electricity usage costs to operate extensive common property lighting (changed to energy-efficient fittings in 2009 i.e. pre solar), a shared laundry with 4 commercial washing machines and 2 commercial clothes dryers, 2 well-utilised electric BBQs, electronically operated security gates, and the CCTV system have been reduced by 83%. 

Timeframe

The project took 3 months from its outset to final implementation.

Other Stakeholder involvement

WallisView is a self-managed plan. All planning, organisational, and supervisory activities were undertaken by the Executive Committee ‘s Secretary.

Lessons Learnt

Discuss the proposal with local electricity supply regulators at an early stage, as they can provide advice on any required upgrades to metering, the availability of gross (feed-in) meters, and where inverters may best be positioned on the common property (e.g. they give off heat which can be an issue if multiple units are positioned in a small area, such as within a common meter room or storeroom).

Ensure that the owners corporation’s insurer is aware of the installation, and that the sum insured for the building is increased as necessary in recognition of the replacement value of the solar system/s, not the cost of them, because the cost is reduced by the amount of Government rebates.

Be very cautious when selecting panels and installers, as warranties on the former and the competence / experience of the latter vary significantly. 

Last Updated: 
Mon 25/01/2016

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