Solar ceiling smashed as Melbourne apartment block shares PV and batteries

Source: Gippsland Solar Facebook

A ground-breaking solar and battery microgrid system has been installed on an apartment block in the Melbourne suburb of Preston, smashing the “solar ceiling” for its tenants, and potentially millions of others who have been “locked out” of cheaper, cleaner energy.

The 70kW of solar and 54kWh of battery storage – installed by the now RACV-owned Gippsland Solar – was delivered in partnership with new-comer retailer Ovida, shared solar start-up Allume Energy, Housing Choices Australia, the Australian Energy Foundation and RMIT.

It uses the Solshare energy distribution technology pioneered by Allume, which connects the 52 apartments and allows for the rooftop generated and battery stored solar power to be shared between them.

Allume said on LinkedIn on Thursday that it was excited to launch its first installation under the Community Energy Hubs Project, in an event attended by Victorian energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio.

The state government last year committed $1 million in grant funding to the Community Energy Hubs project, which ultimately aims to install shared solar and battery storage systems in three multi-tenanted buildings.

“52 low-income households now have access to clean, affordable electricity in this world-first integration of shared solar and batteries,” Allume said on LinkedIn.

“The SolShare ensures solar and battery power is sent to whichever apartment is using energy at that time, to maximise use of solar, and minimise consumption from the grid.”

D’Ambrosio said the Labor Andrews government looked forward to seeing the results of more projects in its $15 million Microgrid Demonstration Initiative.

“We’ve made it out mission to help more Victorian households access solar technology – helping to bring down their energy bills, reduce emissions and pump more power back into the grid,” she said on Wednesday.

“Projects like this go the extra mile to ensure low income households and renters can enjoy the benefits of solar.”

Allume switched on its first commercial shared solar system in May of 2018, at a mixed residential and retail building in the Melbourne Bayside suburb of Highett.

As One Step reported at the time, that 7.2kW Solshare enabled system is now delivering cheap PV power to five apartments, a baker, a hair salon, and an occupational therapist.

The Solshare technology – essentially contained within a small box – is designed to work within the building’s existing metering infrastructure, or “behind the meter,” to allow solar to be distributed and billed to individual apartments.

Allume worked with Ovida on that project, too, as financial backers with benefits – Ovida also happen to have obtained a electricity retail exemption from the Australian Energy Regulator for all states and territories except Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Their involvement allowed the rooftop PV system to be installed at no upfront cost through a 10-year “roof licence” with the landlord or the owners corporation.

Allume then charges the tenants for the solar electricity on a “pay for the power, and not the panels” basis, through a power purchase agreement, at a locked-in rate of 30 per cent less than the retail electricity price.

Since then, the Melbourne-based company has gone from strength to strength, including a partnership with property developer Mirvac, to use Allume’s Solshare technology in its new multi-tenanted buildings, starting at its Folia apartment building in Doncaster, Victoria.

As we have reported on One Step, the push to extend the benefits of rooftop solar to those without the means – or the roof – to install it themselves is quickly giving rise to a new breed of start-ups – SunTenants, Allume, Enova, and Power Ledger, to name a few.

Governments are also stepping into the breach, with a particular focus on extending access to solar and other energy saving technologies to rentals and lower income households.

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