Bondi Beach Strata Property Reaping the Benefits of Solar

Bondi Beach Strata Property Reaping the Benefits of Solar

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Strata, otherwise known as body corporate and owners corporation, solar projects can be stressful and time-consuming for committees, who must navigate technical complexity, voting requirements and financing options.

But as a pilot project in Sydney demonstrates, Smarter Communities can help streamline the process, making it easier for committees to deliver solar systems that benefit owners, tenants and the environment.

Here’s how Smarter Communities guided the committee at a property in Curlewis St at Bondi Beach to a cheaper, greener energy future.

How the story began

Eager to promote the adoption of solar energy in strata, Smarter Communities is collaborating with Allume, a Melbourne-based company, to implement their innovative solar solution, the SolShare.

SolShare is able to equitably split energy from a single rooftop solar system amongst multiple apartments.

In 2020, the sustainability team contacted several committees to gauge their interest in installing the system.

Sustainability Engineer Jasper Webster says SolShare is a “game-changer” and learning about the technology sparked the Curlewis Street committee’s interest.

“They liked the idea of the innovation, that it was a green solution to improve their sustainability and the idea that it would pay itself back over the lifetime.”

Laying the groundwork for a successful installation

The sustainability team spent 12 months engaging with the committee and individual owners to discuss their needs, assess the property upgrades required and explain the SolShare system before presenting a feasibility report with costings and financing options.

The team ensured compliance with all state strata legislation and by-laws, including voting requirements to approve the proposal at the AGM.
The project took 18 months from the initial proposal in late 2020 to the rooftop installation in May 2022.

Delivering the system

The team recommended a 20kW SolShare system with 40 panels.
At Curlewis Street, energy is shared across 12 apartments and the common area.

SolShare is designed to share energy equitably across a maximum of 15 apartments over a month, according to unit entitlements – the same metrics that determine strata levies. If lots 1, 2 and 3 use more power during the first couple of weeks, the system ensures lots 4, 5 and 6 get the greater share later in the month.

The multi-level building was constructed in the 1960s-1970s, so infrastructure upgrades were required, including smart meters for each apartment and rewiring.

The outcome

To install solar in this classic red-brick block is a real sign that strata is now entering the solar game.

Efficient delivery has helped to reduce electricity usage at Curlewis Street by 40%, resulting in a 20% saving on electricity bills. Owners and tenants now have access to EV charging, helping to future-proof the property.

As a behind-the-meter solution, SolShare also allows each owner or tenant to choose their preferred retailer for their energy plan.

“This has barely been done before but we’re hoping that it’s going to become a standardised technology going forward for apartment buildings,” Jasper says.

The costs of the installation

Smarter Communities helped facilitate the financing for the upfront costs of the system through a specialized finance provider.

The $35,000 total included the SolShare technology, solar panels, switchboard upgrade and scaffolding.

The cost is being recovered by charging the owners corporation (also known as the body corporate) a subscription fee of $1.50 per apartment, per day. This is recouped via the strata levy.

The finance provider has a separate contract to maintain the system for 20 years. It will then be given back to the owners corporation. The owners can also choose to buy the system at any time, at a reduced cost.

Overcoming the challenges of solar in strata

Apart from securing funds to pay for the system, the approval process can also be complex. Strata is effectively a mini democracy where every lot owner has a vote, and decisions are made by the majority. If disengaged or off-site owners don’t participate in the AGM, voting requirements may not be met. Buy-in is vital.

Project Co-ordinator Jordao Soares said the team worked for 12 months alongside a group of ‘green champions’ at Curlewis St, who encouraged owners to attend the AGM and vote to support the project.

“There were 12 apartments – 12 different owners – so we were able to contact every single owner and get approval. We actually got every single one to vote ‘yes’ but that’s a very rare occasion,” Jordao says.

The benefits of working with Smarter Communities

Jordao says many businesses have in-depth knowledge of either strata or solar issues, but Smarter Communities has a team with significant expertise across strata, technical and financial matters.

“I’m not aware of anyone else that has an in-house engineering team. Our engineers engage with contractors and suppliers who will design a solution for the building. Engineers will critique that to make sure it’s appropriate,” Jordao says.

“That gives me great confidence that our owners are getting the best solution.”

Innovative solar solutions can help lower electricity usage and costs and make properties more sustainable. There is also emerging evidence that suggests there is a significant uplift in property value when solar solutions are installed. Smarter Communities can help guide committees through the installation process for a one-off consultation fee. The service includes a feasibility report, stakeholder engagement and project co-ordination.

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The information provided is a general guide only and is not intended as a substitute for legal advice. The company disclaims all responsibility and liability for any expenses, losses, damages, and costs which might be incurred as a result of the information provided by the company.

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