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  • #8658
    Avatarccbaxter
    Flatchatter

    There is an aggressive push by our Executive Committee to get solar panels put on the rooves of our 36 unit strata of which 12 units are on top, next to the rooves including us. (Three sets of 12 units, slightly attached.)

    While I feel being green is a noble aim, I am disturbed by the unseemly haste things are forging ahead while other, currently more important projects are being neglected. The funds for installation should really be being spent in other areas I think.

    Sure it may save us all some money in the long term, but it is unclear how the savings will be distributed, how long until the savings are realized and no firm guarantee has been given about amounts of savings.

    I realize Special General Meeting type Resolutions will be required but in our apathetic building this probably won’t be a problem. The fact is, I smell a rat and feel like posing some questions. We have an ‘information night’ coming up but that is being run by the Solar Company and is unlikely to answer questions I think need to be answered, such as the ones above and whether our 40 year old roof which has just been checked and tiles and ridge caps replaced etc. can hold a number of solar panels.

    I have read through some posts here in the green section of Flat Chat and hope someone with experience might offer advice.

Viewing 11 replies - 16 through 26 (of 26 total)
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  • #18289
    Avatarccbaxter
    Flatchatter
    Chat-starter

    Thanks kiwipaul. While it’s very hard to get any information out of them—the Chairman and the Strata Manager who appear to be the drivers and only keen ones—it seems individual owners who want solar panels will pay themselves but it’s unclear who will pay for the infrastructure and costs of getting by-laws etc. When asked what costs there will be to the wider Owners Corporation they cock their heads, metaphorically speaking, and act like you’ve asked them a rude question.

    And we are 36 units. Three levels with 12 units on each level, so roof space above 12 units. So in the unlikely event that everyone wanted to get solar power, there isn’t enough space. 

    I have been told the power will go into the grid which contradicts what’s said in their promotional flyer, if you take it literally and why wouldn’t you. (“… you could power your unit during sunlight hours for the next 25 years or more… ” A verbatim quote.)

    #18285

    @ccbaxter said:

    I fear an ambush at the AGM where we will have to approve by-laws allowing the building to have the infrastructure put in at the OC’s cost, regardless of how many owners want to be involved, and there won’t be many.

    How can we keep the b


    s honest?
     

    Well to install PV systems it would be considered an improvement requiring a Special Resolution (75% in favor). The agenda has to state what sort of resolution each one is and this cannot be changed at the AGM. So if the agenda says it’s an Ordinary Motion you can ask it be ruled out of order at the AGM.

    Also I don’t believe you can use the Sinking fund to fund improvements so a special levy would have to be approved as well. The exception would be if their is an entry in the 10 year sinking fund forecast to cover this (unlikely).

    If their is a motion on the agenda to approve PV installation without a quote, obtain your own quote from a supplier to show everyone the likely cost. You are perfectly entitles to send a copy of this quote to ALL owners with your own comments attached.

    Also will this PV system provide power to all units or just a few, or just power common property (common lighting, lifts etc). You cannot use Strata funds to provide a service to just a few units unless those units reimburse the Strata the full cost.

    #18280
    Avatarccbaxter
    Flatchatter
    Chat-starter

    It has been a while since my original post on this topic but my concerns remain. Our AGM is coming up in May, no date or agenda yet, and owners are receiving flyers in the mail from the strata manager with his name and the chairman’s on them offering interest-free finance on ‘SOLAR POWER’. ‘DON’T MISS THIS OPPORTUNITY’ the latest leaflet screams. ‘Pending approval at the upcoming AGM in May, you could power unit during sunlight hours for the next 25 years or more…’ 

    I view these leaflets as pretty ham-fisted. They are big on broad, un-backed-up, unlikely promises while very light on actual facts. Also these mailings, there have been three now, times 36 units, are being paid for out of our strata’s ‘disbursements’ but doesn’t that mean we are actually paying for them?

    In short I smell a rat. I am wondering if the strata manager and / or the Chairman are in line for some commissions they are not mentioning when being asked. They have mis-represented the number of ‘expressions of interest’ they have had for one thing. I looked at the strata files and there was one reply in the negative while they claim they have ‘over a dozen’ positive replies.

    The Strata Manager also tells fibs then becomes very antsy when asked such questions as ‘What will the costs be to the Owners Corporation’. He really won’t give a straight answer. The Chairman is one of those people who thinks they are lot smarter than everyone else and you should just accept his word on everything, no need to worry about pesky ‘facts’.

    I fear an ambush at the AGM where we will have to approve by-laws allowing the building to have the infrastructure put in at the OC’s cost, regardless of how many owners want to be involved, and there won’t be many.

    How can we keep the b


    s honest?

     

    #17686
    Jimmy-TJimmy-T
    Keymaster

    @PeterC said:


    @JimmyT
    said:
    Been scratching my head but can’t for the life of me work out what PV is.

    Photovoltaic, PV for short. Just saying ‘solar’ without saying ‘solar electric’ could mean hot water. 

    Of course it is.  Just reminded me of the time that I tried to persuade our chairman to investigate photo voltaic solar panels on our roof and when I quizzed him on it months later  he said “Won’t work – it would cost more to pump the ater up that it would save in electricity.”  Some people you just can’t educate.

    #17683
    Sir HumphreySir Humphrey
    Strataguru

    @ccbaxter said:
    …We have an ‘information night’ coming up but that is being run by the Solar Company and is unlikely to answer questions I think need to be answered, such as the ones above and whether our 40 year old roof which has just been checked and tiles and ridge caps replaced etc. can hold a number of solar panels…

    The weight of the panels will be trivial by comparison to the tiles on the same area. A typical PV panel weighs around 15-17kg with its weight spread over much more area than the area that will support a 70kg person standing.

    In order to get building approval the mounting arrangements would have to meet Australian Standards. In the ACT at least there are several levels of post installation inspection to determine that the standards are met, both structural and electrical. Most likely the section of roof with the panels installed will end up more structurally sound, rather than less, having been reinforced by the rail system to which the panels attach. I have heard of examples from cyclone areas where the only bit of roof not blown off was the bit with the panels attached. 

    #17682
    Sir HumphreySir Humphrey
    Strataguru

    @JimmyT said:
    Been scratching my head but can’t for the life of me work out what PV is.

    Photovoltaic, PV for short. Just saying ‘solar’ without saying ‘solar electric’ could mean hot water. Saying ‘solar panels’ could still mean hot water with a flat collector plate. ‘PV system’ implies the complete package of the panels, their mounting and other associated hardware, and an inverter(s) to convert DC current from the panels into mains AC. 

    #17681
    scotlandxscotlandx
    Strataguru

    Photovoltaic system?

    #17680
    Jimmy-TJimmy-T
    Keymaster

    Been scratching my head but can’t for the life of me work out what PV is.

    #17678
    Sir HumphreySir Humphrey
    Strataguru

    Hi,

    Our OC installed a communal PV system last year. It was made controversial for several years by a few objectors but always had majority support. That minority campaigned strongly in opposition. It took 3 votes (twice in 2009 and once in 2012),  a change of legislation in 2011 (in the ACT), and an increase in familiarity with PV over the period to be able to go ahead. The most superficially reasonable argument of the objectors was that we did not have sufficient in our sinking fund. ‘Save the sinking fund’ was the rhetoric. They disregarded that we had an independent, professionally-prepared sinking fund plan and each of the treasurers of the previous decade were in agreement that we had ample in reserve. I don’t think funding was really the objection. Instead it was the apparently reasonable objection that could be brought to the table to instil doubt in other owners when the real objections were otherwise. 

    Anyway, that is my background. 

    I would agree that some OCs might have energy efficiency measures available that would result in a quicker return such as more efficient bulbs in parking areas, and these should be pursued. Nonetheless, the cost of PV equipment has fallen to the point that we have reached ‘grid parity’. That is, if you gain a benefit equal to the retail price of electricity, say from a net tariff, PV systems give a respectable return on investment. So, if your proposed PV system allows you to avoid the retail cost of electricity, the OC can expect to have a decent long term cost saving and more than recoup the cost of the investment. 

    It may be that there are other savings to be made elsewhere but addressing one does not preclude the other. Why not do both? Which you do first might not matter all that much. 

    If your OC goes ahead with a PV system and is paid some sort of gross feed in tariff, it might be taxable as non-mutual income. If the OC resolves to hold the income-earning PV equipment ‘in trust’ for the owners then the tax is payable once at the corporate rate by the OC and not by individual owners in proportion to their unit entitlements. That was the gist of our tax ruling which I would be happy to share with your OC if you want it. A net tariff is generally not taxable. 

    The cost savings to the OC should end up distributed to all owners in proportion to unit entitlements in effect because the cost of running the OC will be reduced and the levies will not need to be as high as they otherwise would be. Consequently, all owners should benefit proportionately. 

    Strata titled properties are often ideal for PV installations because they often have a considerable area of unshaded roof, a long-term management structure, and electricity costs to off-set. 

    PV systems require very little maintenance and are a simple, mature technology with no moving parts that can be expected to last for decades. 

    I have no idea how well researched your OC’s proposal is but I would not be overly sceptical. 

    #17658
    Jimmy-TJimmy-T
    Keymaster

    I spoke at a ‘green’ strata conference last year where other speakers seemed to be of the opinion that there are lots of other energy saving steps you should take before you even look at solar panels for strata buildings.

    Water conservation and getting a water audit done to see how much if any is being wasted is actually also a big energy saver in may buildings because of the cost of pumping water up above anything higher than three storeys.

    Low consumption lighting, reduced lighting and motion sensors for lighting in common areas (especially car parks) can be another big money saver. Solar powered external lighting can also save money.

    Have a look at the Green Strata website which suggests lots of ways you can save energy and money before you even think of spending it on infrastructure.

    #17657
    AvatarWhale
    Flatchatter

    It’s good that you’re aware of the requirements with regard to your Owners Corporation’s (O/C) desire to add or make changes to its Common Property. Those requirements as applicable in NSW are shown HERE, and your O/C additionally needs to consider the items shown HERE where the installation of grid-connected solar at our self-managed Plan is covered and a copy of our Special By-Law is provided (gratis). 

    Encourage your O/C to do its homework as the pay-back is very much less attractive now that the State (NSW) and Federal Government have twice scaled-back the amount ($) of the gross feed-in tariff from the $0.66/kWh that our Plan receives to $0.06/kWh now generally available. Although, now that such subsidies have been withdrawn, the capital cost of solar systems has reduced by around 40%; strange that!

    Solar Companies are now flogging the benefits of net metering (as opposed to gross) on the basis that the capacity of the solar system is supposedly matched to the estimated (by them) daytime demand of the Common Property, with any daytime excess going back to the grid (for a miserly $0.06/kWh), and where that grid then provides all the electricity requirements of the Common Property at night, when the Plan my well need it most (cost $0.28/Kwh).

    In most instances, depending upon the daytime electricity requirements of the Common Property, net metering is simply not attractive in cost-benefit terms so unless your O/C has committed green motives…… 

Viewing 11 replies - 16 through 26 (of 26 total)
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