What Asian developers can learn from this solar-powered Aussie suburb

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Solar communities could be the key to an environmentally sustainable future

Denman Prospect in Canberra (photo: Capital Estate Developments)
Denman Prospect in Canberra (photo: Capital Estate Developments)

Denman Prospect is a new suburb currently under construction in Australian capital Canberra and is destined to be the first mandated solar community, reports Architecture AU.

Spearheading the 4,000 dwelling project is Capital Estate Developments (CED), which has made the decision to mandate a minimum solar requirement for each home in the suburb of generating approximately 4,146 kilowatt hours of energy per year – roughly equivalent to half the energy required by the average Aussie household.

“In terms of environmental benefits, every installation will be like taking a car off the road and it will reduce the carbon footprint of the entire suburb by about a third,” commented managing director of CED, Stephen Byron.

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Each of the 350 households in the first phase of Denman Prospect will be required to buy a 3 kilowatt solar system, although costs for installing solar power are usually significant, CED have partnered with ActewAGL for a bulk-buy discount which will be passed on to the homeowners.

Aside from the environmental benefits, it’s thought that solar power will reduce each homeowner’s annual electricity bill from anything between AUD1,000-1,500 (USD700-1,100), according to The Fifth EstateThis would mean the one-off expense of buying the solar system will have paid for itself in around seven to eight years.

Australia is not the only country to trial solar powered communities. Canada introduced the Drake Landing Solar Community around seven years ago, according to Inhabitatand the 800 solar panel roofs there manage to meet 90 percent of the community’s annual heating and hot water needs.

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So what can Asian developers learn from the example set by Denman Prospect and Drake Landing?

Southeast Asia has certainly got the powerful sun to enable the solar power (although generating energy during the Monsoon season may be harder). The fact that a community in Canada have been able to produce such good results should be encouraging.

Installation costs for solar power can be prohibitively high and could deter developers looking to keep a project financially lean, which could rule out low- to mid-cost developments. Southeast Asian metropolises are traditionally dominated by high-rise condos which would reduce the size and number of the solar panels and reduce the amount of energy generated.

Luxury, low rise housing developments are gaining traction in the region, however, and home owners are increasingly looking to invest in so-called ‘green’ projects and have the spending power to pay more for such premium add-ons as solar power. A whole solar powered community or township could make a huge reduction in carbon footprint while also reducing energy bills significantly. Will Asian developers take the bait?

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