STEP 1: Consider Planning Implications
Do I need a planning permit to install solar panels on my building? You need a planning permit to install a solar energy system if:
• Your property is affected by heritage overlay, and;
• The solar panels are visible from the street (not a lane), or visible from a public park.
In all other cases, a planning permit is not required to install a solar energy system that primarily services the land on which it is situated. There may be penalties for solar installations where planning approval is required and not obtained, or planning permit requirements are not met.
Understand Planning Controls
For new and existing buildings, it is strongly recommended that you know about the planning controls and provisions that apply to your property and surrounding properties, even if no planning permit is required to install the solar system, so that you can gain an understanding of:
• What is the development potential of adjoining and surrounding properties?
• Will this development potential impact the solar system performance in the future? For example, will the neighboring developments overshadow your solar panels?
Planning applications for new developments in the City are required to include information demonstrating that the development has the potential to achieve high environmental performance including energy efficiency. The requirements are outlined in the Local Policy of Energy, Water and Waste Efficiency of the City Planning Scheme. The installation of solar energy systems on new buildings can contribute to achieving these environmental targets.
Consider the following for new developments:
• The construction of new dwellings and additions to existing dwellings presents an opportunity to provide a suitable platform for solar technology, whether this is installed immediately or in the future.
• Designers are encouraged to incorporate roof forms with suitable structure, orientation, inclination and solar access in plans for new developments.
• Solar panels can also be integrated into the building structure such as facades, roof and shading structures which may reduce the cost of installation. However, not every building or development is suitable for solar panels. For example, some are overshadowed by adjoining buildings, or at risk of being overshadowed by future developments
STEP 2: Feasibility - Is solar the right solution for you?
Carry out your own research to determine if your site and circumstances are suitable for a solar electricity and/or hot water system. There are different considerations for residential and non-residential buildings. Solar hot water systems also have different considerations to solar photovoltaic panels which generate electricity. Solar hot water systems can operate effectively with greater levels of shading than solar photovoltaic panels.
Energy profile and energy efficiency
• Understand your current energy consumption profile, your current energy tariffs and your opportunities for energy efficiency improvements, which will assist with solar system sizing and selection.
• Consider replacement of inverters at the end of their life which tends to be sooner than the life of the panels.
• An energy audit can be carried out to determine the energy profile and improvement opportunities.
• Energy efficiency measures should be ideally implemented before or alongside solar installation.
• City of Melbourne has developed a number of programs to assist residents, tenants, and building owners to reduce their impact on the environment.
Building feasibility - Siting
• Determine the most appropriate location for the solar installation considering the availability of suitable area, building orientation, solar access, the structural integrity of the location, and ease of access for associated works.
• The ideal siting for solar panels in Melbourne is a roof pitch of 30 degrees, facing due north. Nevertheless, there is scope for some divergence from this ideal. If you consume most of your energy in the afternoon or late evening, west or north-west orientation may be suitable.
• Photovoltaic panels must be sited to avoid overshadowing (ideally carry out hour by hour shadow analysis over the year) from nearby buildings, structures and trees as even a small overshadowing can significantly impact energy output. Consider implications of planning regulations.
Building feasibility - Structural integrity
• Check that roof structure is suitable for solar installation; especially some heritage building roof structures may not support large solar hot water installation.
• The solar systems should be able to be removed without disturbing or damaging the roof or other fabric of the heritage building.
• Understand your electricity tariffs and how it may change with the solar installation and into the future.
• Understand all the costs involved with the solar installation including installation, any structural reinforcements and ongoing maintenance costs.
• Investigate various financing and funding options for the solar installation. Businesses need to understand tax and other cost implications of the solar installation.
• It is important to consider monitoring and ongoing maintenance requirements and costs.