The STUCCO co-operative is entirely self-managed and provides affordable shared housing to 40 students from the University of Sydney. The decision to switch to solar electricity is the result of a project that is volunteer-run by members, who have spent over a year collaborating to create a system that will allow uninterrupted power supply to the building without high carbon emissions.
The grant application was successful because the students showcased innovation and creativity to overcome the barriers to implementing renewable energy in multi-residential buildings. Solar panels, batteries and smart metering software will all be combined in a system designed using the latest technologies. The system will use 30 kW of “Tier 1” grade PV modules with 50 kWh of usable battery storage capacity.
Resident Sarah King says that the students are “proud to be the first site in Australia for this technology to be used” and excited that “young people are taking practical leadership on climate action”.
The total cost of the project is estimated at $120,000, but self-sufficient renewable energy is highly cost-effective and will provide long-term economic benefits to the co-operative. Björn Sturmberg, one of the project’s directors, says: “This project will see over 80 per cent of the electricity consumed at STUCCO come from our own roof. That’s a huge achievement (which I honestly did not believe was in reach for our budget – the technology and its costs really have improved a lot recently).”
The income generated by the solar system will be used to invest more in STUCCO’s vision for environmental sustainability, for example in upgrades to lighting, heating and cooling in the building.
STUCCO will also ensure that all members of the co-operative benefit from the change by creating a power purchasing agreement which will determine how the electricity will be fairly shared by the residents of the eight units.
Mr Sturmberg says that they are also engaging in “knowledge sharing” to show how other apartments or buildings sharing roof space could make the switch to using sustainable energy sources. He says he hopes the government will provide support for community housing to invest in solar power. This would help groups from lower socio-economic backgrounds to improve their access to renewable energy.