A simple guide to getting solar for apartments

You have an apartment. You’re glad you don’t need to mow the lawn. But you feel left out when everyone’s talking about getting solar panels because you can’t get solar for apartments.

Or can you?

We’re here to tell you that the future is here – ChatGPT can write emails better than certain coworkers you know, and it’s actually very possible to get solar panels installed in your apartment building.

Common apartment solar myths

Myth #1 – There’s not enough roof space so it’s not worth it.

It’s true that if you live in an apartment, you have a lower ratio of roof space available per dwelling. 

The average solar system installed in NSW is almost 10 kW (roughly 25 solar panels). In contrast, if you live in a low-mid rise apartment (1-8 storeys) and your building gets solar, your share would probably work out to about 1.5 kW (about 4 panels).

That doesn’t sound like a lot does it? Except it is, for a couple of reasons. 

Apartments use less energy

Why? One simple reason is that houses are just bigger on average. Your typical 5 bedroom family home with 3 kids running around is just going to use more energy than your typical 2 bedroom apartment with a couple. 

You consume more of your the electricity you generate

One basic rule when it comes to solar is that it’s always more worth it to consume the solar you generate, rather than selling it back to the grid. This is because the amount you pay for electricity form the grid (say 38c / kW) is much higher than the amount the grid pays you for excess energy you send to it (say 12c / kW)

If you live in a house, and you’re not using enough electricity during the day, you don’t really have a choice but to sell it back to the grid. However in an apartment building, the electricity you generate is much more likely to be consumed – if not by you then by your neighbour, or the common areas. 

This means you could still reduce your energy bills by up to 60%.

This works out to hundreds of dollars each year.

And because you own a smaller proportion of the overall system, your up-front costs are also lower. 

Solar for apartments - it is possible to install solar panels on apartments blocks.
Most apartment blocks have enough space on the roof to generate significant amounts of solar power.

Myth #2 – You have to convince everyone in your building

If you’re already finding it hard to convince your neighbour to turn down the music, how are you going to convince them to agree to getting solar?

Luckily, you probably don’t have to. 

Depending on your state, you only need 50% to 75% of the owners in the building to pass a strata resolution. 

There are also options for getting apartment solar where only the owners who want solar need to pay for it. The owners who choose not to pay would then just not get the benefits. 

What are your options?

Option 1: Solar for the common areas

This is the traditional option, and the easiest, because you don’t need to worry about connecting up individual apartments.

In this option, you have a single solar system that is used to power common property in the building such as hallways and lifts. 

It works best in larger buildings where these areas are responsible for a significant amount of energy usage.

Option 2: A separate solar system for each individual unit

This means that each apartment owner pays for all the costs of installing their own solar system, and receives all the benefits from that system, just like you would with a freestanding house. 

It works best for low rise apartments where it’s easy to allocate roof space to each apartment.

Option 3: A single solar system shared to individual units (Allume)

For this option, one large solar system is installed, and the electricity generated is distributed to apartments individually. 

This allows each apartment to save on their own electricity costs.

The main provider of this option in Australia is Allume Energy with their SolShare system for apartments.

Option 4: Single system with embedded network

Some apartment buildings are on an embedded network, which is essentially a private electricity network. The building itself has one main grid connection that is metered, while individual apartments have their own sub-meters. 

In this setup, a single large solar system would be installed, and the energy would be distributed among apartments and/or common areas.

Not sure which option is right for you?
We can help you find the right solar for your apartment block, contact us for free advice.

What does the process look like?

The whole process can take 12 months from the first conversation to installation. It’s not short, but it’s usually worth it.

Step 1: Get an initial quote to assess feasibility

You want to know as quickly as possible how financially feasible solar is for your building, and how much you could save. What rebates are you eligible for? Is solar worth considering? 

It also gives you some concrete numbers that you can share with your neighbours and strata committee later. 

Contact us to get a feasibility assessment for your apartment block.

Step 2: Involve the strata committee

The next step in getting solar for apartments is to involve your strata committee. Not only will they appreciate knowing that you’re looking into getting solar for the building, but they may also want to help. They’ll also be a great source of information and contacts when building out your business case & proposal. 

Step 3: Build your case & proposal

In order to get the greenlight, you need a clear and compelling proposal that the strata committee and fellow residents can agree to.

This means you’ll need to pull together a proposal that covers things like what options are available, benefits and costs, funding options, how solar energy could be distributed to residents, and structural impacts to the building. 

Step 4: Get approval from the Owner’s Corporation

Here comes the big milestone. Submit your application to the owners corporation and hopefully get approval. Depending on your state you will need 50 – 75% or greater approval for a special resolution. 

Step 5: Get final quotes & choose installer

Now that the way is clear to get solar, you’ll want some detailed final quotes from a few installers to compare options.

Step 6: Enjoy your savings and feel good about reducing your emissions

Need help getting solar for your apartment?

We’re a social enterprise helping Australians transition their home to clean energy. Contact us and we’ll help you make a plan, find quality installers, and get it done.