Solar power in the city

Investing in solar is a major trend with one in seven home owners across the country installing solar panels on their roof to save on power bills and at the same time “save the planet” by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  

Residents 3000 members, whilst wanting to play their part in ensuring an energy intelligent city environment, have asked about the relevance of solar for residential high-rise.

Well, it is happening in the city!  Hero Apartments at 118 Russell St has just installed (December 1, 2015) the largest array of solar panels (50kW peak output) to be retrofitted to a Melbourne apartment building.  The solar power generated will offset around 10 per cent of the electricity usage of the common areas of the building.

The owners’ corporation committee investigated the concept thoroughly over a year seeking out the best solar installation companies, available government rebates and grants and the best ways to finance the project. The committee worked closely with the Sustainable Melbourne Fund and the City of Melbourne’s Smart Blocks initiative.

Hero Apartments committee members have commented that: “Solar on apartment blocks is not as hard as we had imagined. It is very important to know where to seek advice and for the committee to welcome it.”

“We had experts come to a meeting to explain their proposals. We contacted the City of Melbourne and referred to those who already had solar installed.  It seems that people are proud to have their building part of the future!”

The solar power system is estimated to have a payback period of seven to eight years, with annual savings thereafter of around $10,000, which will go to reducing owners’ levies.

Some 200 solar modules have been installed on the roof with minimal inconvenience. In fact, some residents commented that they did not even notice that the installation was taking place.

The solar panels will generate around 53,000 kWh per year, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 70 tonnes of CO2 each year – equivalent to the annual usage of around 13 residential homes.

“We believe we must continue to consider developments in the energy markets to ensure Hero remains aware of emerging energy saving trends that are secure, reliable, commercially competitive and environmentally responsible,” the committee said.

Owners in the building are able to see how much solar power is generated in real time with an online application both on desktop and smart phone.  The graph shows the solar generation for the 16th  January (300 kWh) and a typical shape for a sunny day.

The three colours represent the three inverters installed to convert the solar DC output to 3 phase AC power for the common areas.

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