A precinct of solar homes being launched in White Gum Valley today will generate and sell its own electricity through a new type of “citizens’ utility”.
Eighty new homes at the site of the old Kim Beazley Primary School will feature solar panels and about half will have solar batteries.
This infrastructure will be paid for by the precinct’s strata, or body corporate, which will then act as a quasi-utility, selling the electricity back to owners, tenants and the grid.
The $3 million project is a partnership between Curtin University, Western Power, LandCorp, the City of Fremantle and solar equipment supplier Solar Balance.
Jemma Green from Curtin University’s Sustainability Institute said when people bought one of the homes, there would be an addendum to the sale agreement requiring them to buy electricity from the strata.
Tenants would need to do the same.
“So the strata companies are acting as a utility, buying solar, battery infrastructure on behalf of the owners of the dwellings and then selling them on to tenants and owner occupiers,” Ms Green said.
The strata can charge an amount equal to the tariff residents would otherwise be paying.
“But they can also sell it at a discount to attract tenants to the market place, so it means the roof space can be commoditised and provide an extra revenue stream to the owners,” Ms Green said.
It builds on a project from last year of three apartments, which demonstrated the use of this sort of micro-electricity grid for solar generation and storage through strata.
Electricity grid reliance cut by up to 80pc
The homes in the new precinct will include one, two and three-bedroom apartments and townhouses and some freestanding homes.
They will be low-energy homes and use about 50 per cent less water than typical Perth dwellings.
The homes and the strata will still be connected to the grid, so excess electricity can be sold back to the market.
Ms Green estimated the system would reduce reliance on the grid by 70 to 80 per cent, but the grid would still be needed mainly in winter months when there was less sunshine.
“Similarly, the solar panels will try and provide the house with electricity,” she said.
“If there’s no demand there, they’ll fill up the battery, and if the battery’s full and there’s no demand from the house, they’ll try and sell it to the precinct, and if there’s no buyers there they’ll sell it to the grid.”
She described it as a “citizens’ utility”.
“It allows for the benefits to flow back to the owner, who will be buying the solar in the batteries in the first place,” Ms Green said.
“And I think, we’re going to see a new breed of utilities emerging as a result of this innovation. So it’s very exciting.”
Two electric cars will also be available, to be rented to people in the precinct and the wider community to generate more income for the strata and owners.