Newtown housing co-op’s solar energy and battery system slashes power bills

Combined solar energy and battery system makes Sydney student co-op carbon negative and slashes power bills.

A combined apartment battery system and solar panels installed in a Sydney student co-op is reducing resident power bills by 55 per cent.

In fact, the Stucco building in Newtown is now carbon negative, having produced more electricity than it consumed in 2017.

Last year, the co-operative installed 114 solar panels and 36 enphase batteries to power the building, which houses 40 students. The previous bill of $540 from a traditional energy retailer dropped to $240 in 2017.

The co-op is now both an embedded network manager and retailer. This means residents buy their electricity directly from Stucco, either from its solar panels or battery storage.

However, the student body also had to negotiate complex regulations along the way. Apartment blocks with multiple residents require a license to sell electricity along with approval to become an embedded network. Neither is easy to obtain.

Co-op proves solar energy success in city apartment blocks

Stucco’s success proves beyond doubt that a combined solar energy and battery system can create carbon negative apartment buildings.

Stucco co-op residents pose with their solar and apartment battery system.

Stucco co-op residents pose with their rooftop solar panels.

The roof of the student building hosts a 30.2 KW solar energy system linked to 40 kWh of accessible storage using stacked batteries housed in a fireproof basement.

According to project leader Bjorn Sturmberg, the building now produces 128 per cent of total demand from its residents. Factoring in solar generation, the building’s net carbon abatement totals 11,459 kg since the system’s installation.

Because residents are low-income students, previous efforts to add solar panels didn’t eventuate. However, City of Sydney subsequently delivered a maximum sustainability grant of $80,000 to get the project off the ground.

While the Stucco feed-in tariff is only 8.2c/kH, savings from the enphase batteries more than compensate. Since installation, the co-op has saved 90 per cent on grid bills. Monthly bills are down from around $1200 to $110.

Apartment battery system drives solar-powered revolution

According to Mr Sturmberg, ongoing growth in housing density in Australian cities also makes renewable energy options more important.

Because of the burgeoning number of high-rise dwellers in cities like Sydney and Melbourne, combined solar power and energy storage batteries can transform the way residents access clean power.