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Above: Artist’s impression of WGV, render courtesy LandCorp.
LandCorp and Curtin University are working towards developing the world’s first solar storage zero carbon neighbourhood in WGV, in the WA suburb of White Gum Valley, set to be implemented over the next three years.
The research project, developed by Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute’s Professor Peter Newman, Professor Greg Morrison, Dr Vanessa Rauland, Mr Joshua Byrne and Ms Jemma Green, in conjunction with other researchers, will use solar photovoltaic (PV) and battery storage technologies to reach the goal of zero carbon emissions.
“We believe this is the first project of its kind in the world and as such, the results will be of great interest on a global scale,” Green said. “The buildings produce enough renewable energy to run themselves and actually produce in excess of their requirements, thereby ‘paying off’ the embodied emissions in the buildings.”
Groundbreaking in more ways than one, the project includes solar PV systems for strata housing. While reasonably common, solar use on apartment, unit, and shared housing has been limited. Yet with over three million Australians living in such housing, the effects of incorporating solar PV systems would be immense.
“People in strata have been locked out of the renewable energy market due to the roofspace being owned by the body corporate, so not accessible for individuals. In a world where we are increasingly seeing people living in shared developments, these kinds of innovations potentially reflect the future of power utilities, a future that makes solar power a viable option for everyone,” Green said.
“There is strong growth in rooftop solar for freehold residences (more than 1.5 million houses growing at more than 20 per cent per annum) but relatively low numbers and growth in the strata part of the property market. There were barriers as to why this was the case, including designing the embedded network. Developers are used to just doing normal electrical wiring and doing something different and more complex proved a challenge. Battery storage was also too expensive, and getting the developers comfortable with the idea that investors would buy dwellings with these features has proved a barrier. This research project seeks to overcome these however, so we will see a greater uptake of rooftop solar in this part of the property market.”
Solar systems on shared housing often leave little economic incentive for the owner, despite costing them for instillation – creating a major roadblock in the advancement of such technologies in strata homes. LandCorp’s WGV project, however, incorporates an innovative micro-grid, which generates and stores its own power. Tenants then pay the body corporate, rather than utility companies, for the electricity they use. This provides a revenue stream for the owner and justifies the investment. “Embedded networks in strata allows for the deployment of renewables in strata buildings, and provides a revenue stream for owner-tenants and offset strata costs for owner occupiers. This innovation is the emergence of ‘citizen utilities’,” Green said.
LandCorp’s WGV project is an urban infill redevelopment project demonstrating innovation using different housing types, including townhouses, maisonettes, apartments, affordable housing and housing for young people, called the Gen Y Demonstration Housing Project.
“The first solar storage on strata trial was demonstrated in LandCorp’s Gen Y Housing project, and there was so much interest generated at the launch event, we realised there was significant potential for deployment of solar in strata buildings in Australia. We then approached ARENA about developing a national governance model that works in all states and territories under the various strata and community titling laws. They were interested, and then we brought together the network operator in Perth, Western Power, 4 property developers, Curtin Uni, LandCorp, the CRC for Low Carbon Living and hey presto we had a big project! It actually wasnt that easy, but it did make a lot of sense, hence pursuing it,” Green said.
A $1 million grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is helping to fund the White Gum Valley neighbourhood project.
More information on White Gum Valley can be found here.