Ebook highlights: How tenants can get in on the onsite solar action

Here’s an article from our most recent ebook: Renewable Energy – Joining the zero carbon revolution

Businesses that rent commercial office space should consider a shared approach to installing solar panels, according to Adelaide’s dsquared Consulting.

The sustainability consultancy recently installed a 5.5kW system on its rooftop, in collaboration with its landlord and another tenant, while also taking advantage of a grant from the City of Adelaide.

The City of Adelaide and the South Australian Government are working together to transition the city to a low-carbon future, with the aim of Adelaide being carbon neutral by 2020.

Paul Davy

Paul Davy

dsquared director Paul Davy says solar panels were the next logical step for the business, which has made significant reductions in energy use and achieved 5.5 Star NABERS Energy and 5 Star Green Star Interiors rating (the first in SA) for its rented office space in a double-storey converted warehouse on Pirie Street.

The cost of energy was a driving factor in looking at solar but reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and reputational factors were just as important.

“Electricity costs are becoming more of a significant factor for businesses,” Davy says. “So this is a way of reducing your electricity costs but also then managing the risks that it creates to business if it starts to escalate over time. It’s like an investment in cost saving.”

Working in the sustainability area, it was also important for dsquared to showcase its efforts.

“If you have these kinds of technology in place and they are making a difference, obviously that is something you should promote and something you can be proud of,” he says.

dsquared looked at its profile for the past two years and sized the system with the aim of becoming completely carbon neutral.

“We could see the roof area, we could see the size of the other tenancies and we thought there’s a great opportunity for everybody in the building,” Davy says. “Group purchasing helps to reduce the cost of anything… so we thought if we all got together we could all contribute to a larger system and therefore get a lower cost on purchasing the system.”

Co-tenant Wax Design jumped on board quickly, recognising the cost, environmental and reputational benefits. However, despite being interested, the other tenants were not able to commit.

Luckily, the landlord was very open to working with tenants on energy efficiency, having previously contributed to lighting upgrades.

“The landlord immediately agreed and very quickly came to the table, contributing 50 per cent of the cost,” Mr Davy said.

The two tenants pointed out that while they would benefit from the cost savings, as tenants they may leave the space at some point.

“We would be leaving the solar array in place and therefore it becomes an asset that is of benefit to the landlord … It can be leased as very energy efficient, very low cost. If we do achieve a zero carbon position, it could even be advertised as zero carbon office tenancies, which would be really unique.”

The City of Adelaide Sustainable City Incentives Scheme grant contributed $1000 (20 per cent) to the project.

South Australian firm Suntrix supplied and installed the system, which will provide a collective greenhouse gas emission saving of 572 kilograms of carbon a year. dsquared’s portion of the system cost $3700.

While the grant didn’t “tip the balance” in the decision to go ahead with the project, it was certainly an advantage, reducing the payback time for the tenants, which was originally estimated at just under three years.

“Now for us, what we have invested in it, we will get that back in the first year,” Davy says.

The model makes solar panels incredibly cost effective in the commercial space, according to Davy.

“This model is all replicable, this shared purchase of the asset, responsibility for ownership and project management, getting the revenue benefit and obtaining some third-party grant funding,” he says.

“In larger multi-storey office towers the model is going to be pretty limited because the roof area is not very large. But in the smaller business area, where maybe you are in a three or four storey building, where you can get to know the other tenants and all work together as a community, we think it’s a really powerful model.

“The demonstration potential for us was another factor – we could provide a how-to road map for other businesses to do this as well.”

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