A body corporate team has won a national gong for its part in an innovative idea to pay for strata costs by installing a 550kW solar farm across the rooftops of one of its properties on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
The two year project was undertaken on the 95 buildings of the Noosa Lakes Resort, a low to the ground complex with plenty of roof space.
With 550kW of solar panels now installed, the project is the largest of its kind in the Noosa Shire – more than double the size of the next solar system in the area. The team believe this will provide more than 850,000kW hours of solar per year.
More importantly, however, on-selling the solar has provided a revenue stream alternative to Body Corporate levies to help pay of the cost of strata works, while also offering a sustainable energy supply.
“The body corporate was confronted with $150,000 worth of building defects. As the work progressed a further $2 million of latent defects were identified,” says Adelle Sirett from Team Body Corporate.
“It was initially thought that the only viable option was to get a strata loan. However, some lateral thinking led to the purchase and installation of a 550kW solar system which created an additional revenue stream.”
With over 1500 panels installed, the team used Wattwatchers and other technological solutions to be able to monitor which panels might have issues, as well as how much energy is being produced.
The body corporate has set up the system so owners at the Noosa resort can opt in to getting energy from them, and prices are set to the market rate.
Around 95 per cent of the owners have opted in, and 71 installations occurred on the townhouses in the resort. A large amount of the energy goes back into the grid, which provides the majority of the income.
The project won the Noosa based-Team Body Corporate the Strata Community Environmental & Engagement Award at the 2022-2023 Strata Community Australasia Awards Gala.
“We feel great about winning the environmental engagement award,” Andrew Davidson, one of the owners of the company told RenewEconomy.
“We think this is very much a model that can be rolled out not only across southeast Queensland, but across Australia.
“Impressively it generated more than $100,000 of surplus income in its first year to the body corporate.
“The payback for the solar system is estimated at 4.5 years, however, importantly it will also enable the body corporate to pay down the further $2 million of defects debt for years to come while also managing levies at an affordable level.”
But as feed-in prices for solar decrease, Davidson suggests that batteries might be required in the future to continue reaping the benefits of the system.
“I’m not sure that feeding back into the grid and getting credits is going to be sustainable,” he told RenewEconomy.
“If you’ve got the energy stored in batteries, then you’re able to provide power at a much-discounted rate to what you’d ever be able to get out of the grid.”
Ian Wright, one of the resort’s body corporate committee members who spearheaded the project, has since set up an outfit called Solar Revenue Company, which he says are advising dozens of body corporates, from Noosa down to Brisbane.
Wright says that while body corporate decision-making tends to be a slow process, two have had strata solar installed and another two sites are installing this year.
“It just shows the solar revenue for strata models work,” Wright says.