Australia's new solar 'burbs' – where rooftop PV is mandatory

Solar and battery storage as standard features in new-build Australian homes: It’s a concept many are predicting, and some are already offering. But one new suburb being developed in the ACT has laid claim to being Australia’s first to have made a minimum of 3kW rooftop solar mandatory on every new-build home.
And now it’s adding battery storage, too.
The Canberra suburb, called Denman Prospect, is a collaborative effort to “create Canberra’s most remarkable suburb” between local property group Capital Estate Developments (CED) and ACT government-owned utility, ActewAGL Retail.

Denman Prospect: Image supplied

CED, a development arm of Capital Airport Corporation, was selected by the ACT government to develop the first half of the suburb – and paid $241 million for the development rights – of around 145 hectares of mostly north-facing land overlooking the Molonglo River Valley.
Denman Prospect: Image supplied

According to the development guidelines for Denman Prospect, every house – including the 24 public housing dwellings included in stage 1a – will have a minimum 3kW solar system that will generate around 4146kWh of electricity annually, reducing yearly carbon emissions from fossil-fuelled generation by about 3.7 tonnes for each house.
ActewAGL began installing the first round of solar systems on the first 350 homes in the suburb in December last year, and estimates that, collectively, they will generate electricity equivalent to a 1.05MW solar farm.
“Turning on the first solar system in Australia’s first solar-powered suburb puts the ACT ahead of the nation in terms of progressive developments like Denman,” said ActewAGL’s general manager of retail, Ayesha Razzaq, at the time.
“Denman is a showcase of what will become the new normal. Giving the customer control of generating, managing and using their own energy is the way of the future and we are excited to continue to find ways to partner with our customers to do this.”
Foe CED, the partnership with ActewAGL, and guaranteed volume of rooftop systems, meant they could offer home buyers the bulk-purchased solar systems at “around half the cost” of the retail market.
Once installed, the developers expect the 3kW PV systems will cut the average household’s annual electricity bills from about $1500 to $1000, and will pay for themselves over a period of 7-8 years.
But that’s with solar alone. This month, ActewAGL installed its first battery system at Denman Prospect, an addition that is expected to cut household energy bills by up to 80 per cent – using a technology in which, less than two years ago, the developers “were not that confident.”
The battery, installed under the ACT government’s Next Generation Renewables Energy Storage Scheme, was a 5.3kWh Panasonic, pictured below.
Denman Prospect: Image supplied

It comes with a web-based energy monitoring platform that allows families to check their generation and storage via an app over wifi.
Denman Prospect’s director of project delivery, Nick McDonald-Crowley, says the installation marks the first of what CED expects will be many batteries, as the development moves another step closer to realising its original vision.
In fact, CED chief executive Terry Snow and managing director Stephen Byron had set out “to push the envelope on a whole range of things,” McDonald Crowley said.
“Their line is, ‘We are creating Canberra’s most remarkable suburb,’” he said.
But what seems remarkable now, could soon be the norm, as the costs of solar and battery storage continue to fall, and electricity prices continue to rise.
As for the recipient of the battery system, Denman Prospect resident Matt Cousins, he says his family is keen to have greater control of its energy consumption, and to track their daily energy usage and save more money on electricity bills.
“I’m looking forward to making subtle changes in our usage to make our house more efficient and see the immediate impact of these changes,” Cousins said. “We also care about the environment, so it’s rewarding to know that by combining solar and battery storage we have a really efficient and sustainable home energy system.”

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