100% solar. Is it achievable for large-scale developments?
Did you know that Australia now has the world's highest adoption of solar PV, with 26% of all Australian homes having a solar power system?
With statistics like this, it comes as no surprise that solar has quickly become a common inclusion in boutique developments. Companies such as Glenvill, Mirvac, Landcorp are just a few of many developers rolling out solar on their townhouse developments.
But given the examples listed above are of limited scale (less than 50 townhouses each), it begs the question; can this scale to larger communities? Can the suburban broadacre developments which define our cities, go 100% solar by installing solar power on every roof?
The short answer is, yes.
That's exactly what Intrapac Property is doing at Kinley, a 3000+ dwelling development on Melbourne’s eastern fringe. All homes purchased at Kinley must install a solar power system, a rule enforced through design & planning controls.
That's right, the developer is mandating solar power on all homes, even those sold as land lots - hence the need for controls though the planning system.
It's a bold move for sure, and the first of its kind for a large-scale, suburban development in Australia. Once complete, the community will host over 15MW of solar, or almost 50,000 solar panels, in what is a clear statement of innovation and sustainability.
New Energy Ventures has helped Intrapac to ensure their 100% solar community is technically possible and commercially viable
There are a number of factors complicating the quest for 100% solar communities.
At the top of the list is the risk of overloading the grid with too much solar generation during the day. This can lead to issues such as voltage instability and network congestion. Often this manifests in the form of a costly surprise for developers at the time of utility network connection, or for residents who experience voltage and power quality issues - namely their lights, appliances and solar systems either turn off or stop working altogether.
We've worked with Intrapac to devise a multi-pronged solution to this problem:
Creating load sinks. This development will use internet-of-things technology to orchestrate energy loads such as hot water heaters and air conditioners, turning them on during the day to absorb surplus solar generation that can’t go to the grid.
Better network design. Such high-penetration of solar, in this case, requires a different network layout. Careful electricity network forecasting has been undertaken by our team using leading engineering models (SINCAL) augmented with our consideration of new energy technology generation and flexible load sinks. This level of detailed planning has allowed Intrapac to proceed with confidence and ensures discussions with the utility progress smoothly.
Another challenge of mandating solar power is the additional cost burden placed on home buyers. This is particularly relevant to new home buyers who may not have the borrowing capacity to pay for a solar system in their mortgage. To address this, we've supported Intrapac in creating a solar energy offer that removes the upfront cost of purchase. The homeowner can simply sign up to a nominated, low-cost energy provider for a certain period of time to participate, reducing the upfront capital requirement.
With all these solutions, the developer's out-of-pocket costs have been minimal. In fact, as is the case with Intrapac's solar energy offer, it has the potential to create a new and ongoing income stream for the developer.
New Energy Ventures is a management and energy consultancy that has worked with over 20 of Australia's developers. We devise market-leading new energy strategies that sell more houses, reduce development costs, and create new revenue streams.
We supported Intrapac to make Kinley the first large-scale suburban new-build community to go 100% solar.