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Can I Install Solar Panels As A Condominium Or Strata Landed Homeowner?

While it is possible to install solar panels as a condominium or strata landed homeowner, there are quite a few considerations to take into account before doing so. Read on to find out what these are.
Can I install solar panels as a condominium or strata landed homeowner?

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Can You Install Solar Panels As A Condo/Strata Landed Homeowner?

“I live in a condominium with a penthouse or strata landed home. Can I install solar panels on my roof?”

If you have this question in mind, you have come to the right place!

The answer is yes: it is technically possible to do so. However, there are a few pointers to take note of: not only do you have to go through the process of obtaining approval from your MCST, it also comes with a pretty frustrating set of limitations compared to a regular landed property solar owner.

Do read on to find out what is required of you to obtain permission to install your own solar system, as well as what you have to keep in mind should you go ahead with the decision to do so. 

How Do I Obtain Permission To Install A Solar Panel System?

Before going ahead with your decision to install your solar system, you must first obtain approval from your estate’s Management Corporation Strata Title (MCST). Sometimes, your request to install a solar system will have to be brought up during your estate’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), so do clarify with your MCST on that. If so, and the AGM has recently passed, you might have to wait almost a whole year just to obtain permission. 

This is a commonly asked question, so other homeowners or committee members may have previously already brought this up during the MCST’s AGM.

You Can’t Export Or Sell Excess Electricity Even After Installing Your Solar System: This is Why

But even after installing your solar system, you would not be able to export or sell any of your excess electricity to the grid. This is because of the metering arrangement put in place for MCST property. 

Master-sub scheme

Adapted from [Info] Solar Panel – Non Residential Consumers (Master-Sub Write Up)

The metering arrangements that all condominiums and strata landed property adopt is known as a master-sub scheme, which consist of:

  • a master-metered account, which tracks the overall electricity expenditure by all the buildings and amenities, such as your gyms, swimming pools, barbeque pits and more,
  • sub-metered accounts, which measure the electricity consumption of each unit, and
  • common services consumption, which is basically the master reading subtracted by the sub-meters reading. 

After your solar panel is installed, the new metering arrangement will now look something like this:

In order for excess solar energy to be exported or sold as electricity to the grid, it has to reach the grid in the first place. 

If you recall science classes in school – electrons flow in the path of least resistance. Since other sub-meters (from other tenants) are also drawing electricity, in this scenario, any excess electricity generated by the solar panel going through your sub-meter will flow towards any of the other sub-meters or common services for the MCST as indicated by the arrows.

Hence, this makes it virtually impossible for any property owner under the master-sub scheme to export or sell excess electricity, as all excess electricity generated by your solar panel will eventually be redistributed to other units, before it can ever flow into the grid

What Kind Of Limitation Does This Bring?

By not being able to export or sell excess electricity back to the grid, naturally, you will not be able to enjoy most of the financial benefits that come with doing so

This leads to a higher payback period of typically 10-20 years on your solar system, compared to 5 to 7 years for the typical landed solar homeowner. In other words, it takes considerably longer for the savings on your electricity bill, as well as the cash inflow generated from your solar panel, to pay back the initial investment. Why is this so?

For a regular solar panel property owner, this is how their energy consumption versus solar generation will typically look like:

For most solar panel owners, your household energy consumption (Area B) is usually lesser than the total solar energy generated by your system during the day. This leaves us with excess solar energy (Area A). This excess solar energy can be sold back as electricity to the grid, allowing the owner to secure extra cash flow from their solar panels, thereby contributing to a shorter payback period. 

However, for a condo or strata landed homeowner, this means that 50% of solar energy generation (the entire Area A) is lost savings. 

What Else Do I Have To Take Note Of?

You also need to take into account that for strata landed homeowners, SP will not change the master meter into a bi-directional meter. In other words, the solar system installed will be considered a “hobby” system and you may have to be liable for any risks on the system since this will not be officially registered with SP Group.

Does This Mean That If I Fall Under This Category, I Should Not Install Solar Panels?

Unfortunately due to the limitations above, condominium penthouse or strata landed homeowners are unable to benefit as much with a solar panel system installed. However, if you meet the following criteria, installing solar panels can still give you a very strong financial return: 

  • Roof material and structure: if your roof is either a metal or concrete roof, it may be more practical to do so. Metal and concrete roofs not only make the solar installation process simpler (hence saving you costs), but they also allow you to optimise the angle of your solar panels. This effectively maximises the sunlight your panels will receive as well as being “self-cleaning” when it rains, thus giving you more savings on your solar panel system.
  • Roof size: if the size of your roof is big (i.e above 40 square metres), this facilitates the installation of solar panels and effectively reduces the unit installation costs of your solar panel system. Since manpower costs typically make up about 50% of your system costs, a bigger system brings you more unit cost savings. .
  • Energy consumption: although you cannot monetize your excess solar electricity, if your household already has a high daytime electricity consumption in the first place, it may still be worth the investment to get a solar panel. This is because the energy generated by the solar panels can be used to offset your daytime energy consumption, with less electricity savings lost. 

Solar Batteries

Now, for other owners without a high daytime energy consumption, there is an alternative. You can store your excess daytime solar energy and use it to offset your night time energy consumption, rather than selling electricity back to the grid. 

However, the cost of solar batteries is still considerably high at this point in time, and typically adds an extra 40-60% of costs on top of your solar panel system. Find out more about solar batteries and energy storage in our other article here.

Our Recommendation

While you are able to install solar panels as a strata landed homeowner, the financial benefits for doing so are typically not as significant, as you are unable to sell excess electricity to the grid. With that in mind, you can expect your breakeven period to be at least 10 years or longer. 

However, if your energy consumption is already high, your roof space is sizable and your roof material and structure are ideal for solar, getting a solar system could be worth considering. 

If neither of those apply to you, you can also opt to get a battery system if you can afford it, which will still make installing a solar system on your home a relatively worthwhile purchase. While the breakeven period will still be slightly longer compared to a landed homeowner, you can still expect a sustainable source of electricity that pays dividends in the long run.

Should you wish to install a solar system, do remember to get approval from your estate’s MCST first before continuing. In the meantime, you can also get an instant solar estimate via our online simulator to get a better understanding of your solar potential and cost savings.

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Solar AI Technologies
Solar AI Technologies
At Solar AI, we combine geospatial data and artificial intelligence to provide home and property owners with the tools and knowledge to get solar as easily as possible. Our mission is to use technology to simplify the solar experience for everyone.
Solar AI Technologies
Solar AI Technologies
At Solar AI, we combine geospatial data and artificial intelligence to provide home and property owners with the tools and knowledge to get solar as easily as possible. Our mission is to use technology to simplify the solar experience for everyone.
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