Students set up an Australian first solar energy apartment block to halve their energy bills
Monday, 30 Apr 2018

Fed up with the constant growing rate of high energy bills a group of NSW students took a chance on a big solar energy project and are now reaping the rewards.

Students set up an Australian first solar energy apartment block to halve their energy bills

In late 2016, an apartment block, filled and run by 40 wide-eyed University students from Newtown in Sydney decided to install a solar energy storage system to cut their energy bills.

Headed by former resident Dr Bjorn Sturmberg, had originally aimed to reduce the Stucco tenants’ bills by 20 per cent but was delighted to realise his ambitious project reduced power bills by over half.

Having worked for 18 months to get the system operational, the apartment block is essentially acting as a private microgrid, having harnessed 114 rooftop solar panels and 36 batteries to achieve these results.


Thirty-six batteries have been used to power the huge apartment complex and cut the tenants power bills in half. Source: Stucco, ABC.

This project was not cheap though, coming in at a cost of around $130,000, but through a grant of $80,000 from the City of Sydney, they were able turn their plan into a reality.

Last year, the system produced 41.5 megawatt hours (Mwh) of solar energy, which was higher than the 36.4 Mwh used by the tenants. As a result, the excess solar produced was then sold back to the retail energy grid, making a return on investment of about 8 per cent.

Realising 36 batteries seems like a bit of an overkill for a standard residential property, there are still huge benefits to utilising battery technology. To find out everything you need to know before getting started, go to the solar battery basics you need to know before getting off the grid.

How much has everyone saved from this investment?

Originally paying around $540 on their annual power bill, the low-income students have cut that down to just $240.

Solar officer for the apartment block and fellow resident Edie Griffin, said although they are on average about two-thirds off the grid, the collective still work to cut down on energy usage.

The distribution of power usage between the panels, battery storage and the grid in the apartment’s first year after their investment. Source: Stucco, ABC. 

Ms Griffin explained that certain units housing five people and contained all the appropriate appliances (fridge, oven etc.) averaged a weekly payment of just $13 in total.

Because of this, the students are not worrying anymore about whether they can afford to pay their electricity bills, and can now just focus on their studies and on their futures.

What does this mean for the rest of Australia?  

As you would have already realised, Australia is in the midst of one of the worst energy crisis’ across the globe.

With already high bills, they’re expected to keep on going up, with WA residents expected to have an average increase of over $200 in the coming few years.

But, like the students of Sydney’s inner west suburb, whether you’re an apartment block tenant or a private home owner, there is a way to reduce your energy bills.

The Energy division at AICA realise the frustrating current nature of the energy sector, and are set to help Australian residents take back control of their electricity.

With over a decade of experience, AICA specialises in rooftop solar energy systems and battery storage solutions. Dedicated to ensuring your solar system cuts your bills, our team of professionals ensure you have the premiere solar energy system on your home or business.

Projects like the one seen in Sydney are a national first, but that does not mean it needs to be the last. Local councils take initiatives as such on board and through a desire for sustainable living, tenants across Australia could also benefit from the addition of solar energy.  

If you’re interested to see how your home or apartment can benefit from solar, call our friendly AICA team on 1800 242 228.

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