Episode 11 – Innovative solar, storage and sharing

Solutions for apartments

There’s a problem for people living in medium and high density apartments as they lift ambition for climate action: Apartment blocks have limited roof space per apartment for solar PV and limited options for sharing stored energy for self-consumption and charging EVs.

To address this problem, our team will continue to research and demonstrate innovative solutions including:

  • vertically-mounted PVs on an eastern wall
  • vertically mounted bi-facial PVs facing east-west
  • PV trees
  • behind-the-meter solar and storage sharing
  • a comparison of innovative battery storage options
  • shared electric vehicle charging technology, powered by the strata landlord

We’ll keep you informed of progress

Urban Ecology Australia Inc has been recognised with many awards for its 30 year history of research and implementation of best practice regenerative urban development. Lessons learned are shared through in-person site tours and on-line virtual tours of its multi-award-winning model ecocity development Christie Walk.

Vertically-mounted PVs on an eastern wall

What do you do when the available roof space is already crowded with solar PV and solar thermal collectors? One option might be to mount PVs on vertical walls. We have a significant area of eastern boundary wall on one of our apartment blocks, Sturt Apartments. Fortunately the neighbouring low-rise apartments were built recently, so overshadowing won’t be a problem for the foreseeable future.

So what options might we look at?

Vertical PV rack installation at the Urban Health Plan in New York
Vertical PV rack installation at the Urban Health Plan in New York

Innovative PV options where roof area is limited

Bifacial PVs mounted east-west for solar at peak morning and evening usage
Bifacial PVs mounted east-west for solar at peak morning and evening usage

Converting apartments with individual NMIs to shared solar

Convert NMI meters to smart meters, and possibly move them behind a single retailer meter. Find software and hardware to manage sharing and billing. Options:

  • Powerledger blockchain Peer-to-Peer energy trading solution. Options include coverage for either:
    • Just 6 apartments
    • Whole of Christie Walk site
    • Neighbourhood solution, allowing solar and storage sharing for all consumers connected to our nearest electricity sub-station or smart transformer.
  • Powertracer from Enosi Energy. No blockchain involved!
  • SolShare hardware-based solution from Allume Energy.
  • Virtual microgrid solution from Evergen combining Intelligent Control with a Virtual Power Plant.
  • Community solar options that enable apartments to share renewable energy generated off-site:

Shared EV Charging Infrastructure

EV charging infrastructure with solar power supplied by the strata Primary Corporation, billed to individual users. We will consider various options:

What people say about our innovations

We’re delighted with the support we’ve received as we lift our ambition on climate action to reduce emissions, and the recognition of its importance to the wider community. Here are examples:

Project summary and overall plan

All of the elements of our solution are either:

1) Mature technologies, but deployed in an innovative fashion.

2) New products just coming onto the market.

3) Mature technologies, deployed in a hybrid manner, as often has to happen in retrofitting in existing multi-residential buildings.

4) Contribute towards building a micro-grid.

Examples:

1) Researching and deploying best alternative options for PVs on vertical walls: Conventional framed-PVs? Frameless adhesive PVs? Thin-film printed PVs?

2) Hardware vs software solutions for moving multiple multi-residential NMIs behind the meter, to allow optimum self-consumption on site. Should block-chain technology for this purpose be rejected because it is just too energy-hungry? Or is it the only realistic option for fully-integrating a smart micro-grid?

3) Bifacial transparent PVs mounted vertically instead of as pergola roofs. What is the actual vs theoretical performance?

4) Building a micro-grid. Almost comically, for our 27 dwellings, we have 17 NMI connections to the grid. That’s inefficient and costly. Even worse, some of our prosumers are exporting to the grid, whilst at exactly the same time, others are importing from the grid, causing quite unnecessary grid congestion, which in turn limits the penetration of renewables into the grid.

So our project is a micro version of Rewiring The Nation, and is important as a model of what needs to happen in multi-residential developments around the country, for both retrofitting and for new construction.

The plan is to reduce NMI grid connections from 17 to 4, either physically or via a virtual microgrid. Each component of the project – whilst can be viewed as an individual item – is a step towards that overall vision.

Our progress over the past 6 years is documented in our 11-part blog series, starting here:

A video of our tech sustainability upgrades is here:

A complete playlist of videos here:

We’ll continue to add content to our YouTube Channel youtube.com/@UrbanEcologyAustralia as the project progresses.

This article is part of our special series:
Aiming beyond NetZero at Christie Walk – Adventures with an environmentally conscious inner-urban community.

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