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Curtin researchers seek to develop zero carbon neighbourhood

Media release

Curtin University has partnered with the Low Carbon Living CRC, Western Power, LandCorp, the City of Fremantle and Solar Balance to develop what researchers believe will be the world’s first zero carbon neighbourhood using solar photovoltaic (PV) and battery storage technologies.

A $1 million grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is helping to fund the project which is set to take place over the next three years.

The project will be a novel way to show how a strata neighbourhood can involve solar storage technologies.

Ms Jemma Green, Curtin Research Fellow, said the research being completed at the Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute (CUSP) was instrumental in bringing the idea of a citizen utility to life.

“Essentially what we have is the strata acting as a quasi-utility who will own and operate the solar power infrastructure and sell power directly to home owners and tenants,” Ms Green said.

“In a world where we are increasingly seeing people living in shared developments, these kinds of innovations potentially reflect the future of power utilities, a future that makes solar power a viable option for everyone.”

Last year a project involving three apartments was used to model the concept in Western Australia (WA) using WA Strata Law.

Ms Green said this was a large scale deployment of the model using different housing types with different energy profiles, and adapting for the strata and community titling laws in all states and territories to create a national solution.

More than 1.4 million homes in Australia make use of solar PV systems, however until now the use of such systems on strata housing has been restricted.

Developed by CUSP’s Professor Peter Newman, Professor Greg Morrison, Dr Vanessa Rauland, Mr Joshua Byrne and Ms Jemma Green, together with a team of PhD students, the innovations in solar energy and battery storage will be implemented as part of Landcorp’s development, WGV, in the WA suburb of White Gum Valley.

The whole WGV residential development of 80 dwellings features climate sensitive technologies, creative urban greening and innovative water management strategies. Around half of these dwellings will have solar storage installed.

Ms Green said the process would be monitored closely from installation to management and even the power consumption of the new inhabitants.

“We believe this is the first project of its kind in the world and as such, the results will be of great interest on a global scale,” Ms Green said.

The project also involves making electric vehicles available for rent to the public, demonstrating how strata can become citizen utilities and create a zero carbon neighbourhood.

The ARENA grant is to be announced at an event on Wednesday 13 April 2016.

A documentary about the WGV development and solar energy innovation has been released and can be accessed via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VZX4kUKteY.

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