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Have any existing apartment buildings installed solar panels on the roof?

  • 22-04-2023 7:08pm
    Registered Users Posts: 45

    I'm on the owners' management company board of a development that has about 800 square meters of pitched roof. There are 92 apartments. I think solar panels could make sense if the energy could be distributed to individual apartments rather than just the common areas.

    This company is interesting: Allume Energy

    They can split the energy equally among individual apartments. They're mostly Australian but they've done a couple of installations in the UK.

    Does anyone know of apartment buildings that have retro-fitted solar panels? Either for the common areas or for the apartments? I'd be interested to zoom in on Google Maps satellite view and get an idea of how it looks if anyone knows of any.


  • Registered Users Posts: 10,805 ✭✭✭✭the_amazing_raisin

    Probably not what you're looking for but I've seen a few duplex apartments near me with solar thermal panels on the roof

    I suspect that the duplex owners own the roof in this case so it's not a common space

    It'd be great to see more of this being implemented but I suspect you'll face an uphill struggle from residents who don't want to pay for the upfront costs of installing the panels

    Perhaps a solar rental service would be a better approach where the rental fee is incorporated into the management fees and if the solar electricity could be balanced across apartments somehow

    The main issue would probably be some residents benefitting more than others, you'd have residents complaining about how many cups of tea other apartments are having and using up all the free electricity 🙄

    Perhaps a small battery could be offered to apartments to soak up excess solar and provide some costs savings to residents? I've always felt that apartments are one place where an individual battery per apartment would make sense

    "The internet never fails to misremember" - Sebastian Ruiz, aka Frost

  • Moderators, Home & Garden Moderators Posts: 5,759 Mod ✭✭✭✭graememk

    Instead of trying to distribute the power to the apartments, what about solar on a view to export nearly all of it, and offset the electric costs of the common areas or even make a profit, and reduce the maintenance fees of the building.

    If you put 80 panels up, roughly 30kwp, that (which would be only 160m²) would generate roughly 25MWh a year and at a nominal export of 20c is €4800 a year.

  • Registered Users Posts: 10,805 ✭✭✭✭the_amazing_raisin

    That was my first thought as well but I don't think residents would go for it

    They'd basically be getting an increase in management fees, or a one time investment, and in return getting lower management fees

    Doesn't really work out logically, particularly if a lot of residents view their apartments as a starter home and intend to move in a few years (or they're a landlord and don't give a sh!t)

    I think there needs to be a more tangible benefit for residents to sell it

    "The internet never fails to misremember" - Sebastian Ruiz, aka Frost

  • Moderators, Home & Garden Moderators Posts: 5,759 Mod ✭✭✭✭graememk

    Yeah with them points, it's not gonna happen like that.

    Suppose another option could be each apartment owner having their own string and inverter up there, but that requires a wire from each consumer unit.. wiring nightmare

  • Subscribers Posts: 40,958 ✭✭✭✭sydthebeat

    Making sure you can get a connection from the roof down to every apartment within the OMC controlled areas may be quite difficult

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  • Registered Users Posts: 10,805 ✭✭✭✭the_amazing_raisin

    In my experience the meters for all apartments tend to be in a cabinet in the basement or outside

    Perhaps that would be an option for feeding power into the apartments

    The device from Allume seems to be a sort of load balancer which distributes the available solar across the current demand as evenly as possible

    Probably the best course of action since it makes the best use of the available resources

    I still reckon it would be best coupled with an optional battery in each apartment so that each resident benefits equally.

    For example apartments with someone at home would get more benefit than those that are empty during the day. But having a battery gets around that since the empty apartments also get the benefit

    "The internet never fails to misremember" - Sebastian Ruiz, aka Frost

  • Registered Users Posts: 9,773 ✭✭✭antoinolachtnai

    There is a provision for this sort of thing in the law under the heading ‘energy communities’.

    There is a way of wiring and metering so that individual homes can have the benefits of shared PV. But it does require cooperation of the power company.

    The other problem with solar for apartments is the legal structure: the management company isn’t supposed to enter contracts for longer than three years. This year bviously isn’t a long enough period to lease roof space or finance equipment. This could be gotten around but it’s all a bit involved. Hard to make it worthwhile.

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,848 ✭✭✭Chris_5339762

    I would say it generally won't work - the roof space of a standard bungalow or two storey house will provide you with enough solar to make it worthwhile (as we all do on here). But an apartment complex that is several storeys high and houses multiples of people doesn't have THAT much more roof space.

  • Moderators, Home & Garden Moderators Posts: 5,759 Mod ✭✭✭✭graememk

    I was about to say But theres 800m2, but also seen 92 apartments. Thats 8.9m2 per apartment.

    Just about enough for 4 panels each. Also in consideration, What aspect is it, north/south... etc, Working at height too...

    For an entity to put solar on that roof would definitely pay off the install costs.. Maybe an option would be to "lease" the roofspace.. but going down that avenue theres a lot cheaper options eg warehouses factories etc

  • Registered Users Posts: 9,773 ✭✭✭antoinolachtnai

    on the other hand, the cost to put 88 sq m of panels on a single accessible roof will be a lot lot lower than 22 individual installs.

    But you would need to be able to connect them to the grid through a single connection to have it make sense. no real electrical problem with this because the block will have a substation

    The apartment dwellers would have to get credit for this as though the panels were directly connected and that is a difficulty.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 45 ShaneODub

    Some interesting feedback there. I'm going to send a couple of exploratory emails to the likes of the SEAI and Urban Volt and the local Green politicians. I probably won't bother pursuing it if there isn't a way to share the power between the apartments. The whole benefit in my eyes is reduced electricity bills and an improved BER rating. On the other hand if some 3rd party like Urban Volt would take on the initial costs and ongoing maintenance, then maybe it'd be worth it for the common areas. The common area electricity only cost about 80 quid per resident in the most recent 12 months.

    (Bit of further information: There is a substation on-site. The meters are in a couple of cabinets in the basement. Majority of roof orientation is SW and NE. The AGM tends to be a ghost-town so there won't be any opposition if the board finds something that makes sense.)

    What do new-build apartment blocks do, by the way? I presume they have to have some renewable energy by law? Do they just feed into the common areas?

  • Registered Users Posts: 10,805 ✭✭✭✭the_amazing_raisin

    Worth keeping in mind that the energy load of an apartment is usually much lower than a house. Years ago I lived in a 2 bed apartment with electric heating and I'd say the energy demand was about a quarter of my house (even subtracting the 2 EVs)

    Turns out a bunch of humans sharing the same space is more efficient than a bunch of individual spaces 😉

    So even though you'll probably only get 1.2kWp, it could go a bit further than with a house

    Particularly if you've got something like an Eddi doing some heating of water and storage heating

    "The internet never fails to misremember" - Sebastian Ruiz, aka Frost

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,622 ✭✭✭10-10-20

    Personal opinion, but the best approach in my mind would be to deploy a smaller installation with the agreement of the OMC as a proof-of-concept, but initially fund it through a small group of like-minded and agreeable owners. That keeps the donkey-flogging to a mimimum.

    Something like 10 panels and have it setup on it's own meter as a commercial venture. Run that for a year and see what returns are like and then look at pricing an expansion with further/full engagement and profit-share with all owners/parties.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,402 ✭✭✭DC999

    Yeah, and could use any roofs that are around instead of the main roof. The main roof may have less space than expected due to ducts, stairwells.... Bin rooms often have large single story roofs. Or small buildings that house equipment for the apartment. Could work well if not in the shadow of the apartment complex.