Sydney's First Battery Powered Apartment Block Halves Residents' Power Bills

Image: Stucco

Residents at Sydney student housing co-op Stucco in Newtown have seen huge reductions to their power bills thanks to a combined solar and battery system installed last year. After a year of operation, Stucco has confirmed a reduction of around 55 per cent to residents' bills, with the building generating more energy than it used in 2017.

We visited Stucco last year to check out the system for ourselves, and you can read about that visit here:

Living With Solar Batteries: Three Australian Households Share Their Story

Since the Tesla Powerwall burst onto the scene less than two years ago, home batteries have never seemed like a smarter or more viable investment for households with solar. Soon enough it wasn't just Tesla - other options quickly began popping up on the market, giving us a vast variety of batteries for all different homes with all different needs.

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Now that the system has been in use for over a year, Stucco has released some figures on what the solar and batteries have done for its residents. With 114 solar panels and 36 Enphase modular batteries, electricity bills have been dropped by around 55 per cent.

In 2017 residents paid around $240 per year for electricity, which dropped from a bill of around $540 when buying from a traditional retailer. The co-op acts as an embedded network manager and retailer, meaning occupants buy their electricity straight from Stucco so long as there is solar energy being produced or stored electricity available from the batteries.

"The results show solar and storage solutions can help Australia’s apartment sector access clean, renewable energy, and also cut high costs of living for Sydney tenants," said Bjorn Sturmberg, who spearheaded the project during his time at Stucco. "For too long, Australia’s solar revolution has been confined to owner-occupier properties, and renters have been excluded from these opportunities, leaving them locked into dirty energy and exposed to skyrocketing electricity prices." Sturmberg now heads up SunTenants, which helps get more solar onto rental homes.

Unfortunately there are still a number of regulatory barriers to getting solar onto strata, which Strumberg wrote about after his experience with the Stucco project:

How Apartments Can Join Australia's Solar Energy Boom

While there are now more solar panels in Australia than people, the many Australians who live in apartments have largely been locked out of this solar revolution by a minefield of red tape and potentially uninformed strata committees.

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Hopefully the success of projects like Stucco's will help clear the red tape and introduce more solar-friendly regulations for apartment buildings, especially as more of our population moves towards high density housing.


Comments

    And who paid for the solar panels, batteries, converters? And also how much? Does the cost balance out the 'savings' in electricity payments? The Tesla battery would be good for those who don't have the power connected and the cost to connect it would be too much - but for those already connected, it doesn't seem to add up.

      The City of Sydney paid $80,000 towards it, as part of a project looking at sustainability in apartment buildings. Click through to the Living With Solar Batteries article, and its the third of the three stories.

      The project is looking at issues with this very sort of idea (and there were a few), to find ways to make it viable, and less regulatory. Details are in the linked story, but in that regard they did a great job dealing with the legalities, and proving the concept. Being a co-op was a benefit with that for sure.

      In this regard it was 114 panels and 36 batteries, so broadly 3 panels per battery. I think there are 40 people in 8 apartments (co-op living at its best), so think of that battery/panel ratio as being per person. They aren't big Tesla sized batteries either - they're shown in the article if you want to see them.

      In general though, as these sorts of things move forward it would be something the owner would be paying, either incorporated into the cost when buying, something out of the sinking fund (if its set up properly - doubtful), or an extra strata cost to cover the installation.

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