There is a growing consensus that climate change is real and its consequences will have significant impact on our quality of life and regional economic future. While the cause of climate change may be debated, its potential impact on future generations should not be. So the real question should be, what are we going to do about it?
If part of the solution to climate change is living more sustainably with a goal of zero-carbon power production, condominiums can take a key role in this effort. By the very nature of community living, condominiums reduce our carbon footprint through more efficient use of the land and reduction of construction materials with multi-family building designs. Many urban condos are developed by recycling old buildings that are re-purposed thus avoiding the wrecking ball and waste generation.
Condominiums can take a leadership position to promote more environmental friendly municipal projects ranging from efficient public transportation; avoidance of the consumption of fossil fuels in favor of sustainable electric generation for heat pumps or electric powered vehicles; and waste recycling.
Not only has the price for these PV solar panels been dropping rapidly over the past few years, the methods of maximizing their usefulness in a community environment is becoming more viable with the newest technology allowing both direct and scattered sunlight to create electricity and by use of power inverters so electric power can be directed into batteries or the utility grid to sell back excess electricity. These PV panels can be grouped into arrays called micro-grids that can collect electricity and distribute to not just one user but a community of users.
These micro-grids can be located in a wide range of locations. They do not have to be on top of roofs which are objectionable to many. Instead, they can be located in empty areas around the condo complex. As an example, one of these ‘solar farms’ can feed two buildings with four units in each. Buildings such as these are fueled today by shared propane tanks in the backyard, why not solar arrays?
These types of PV solar arrays can provide electricity to fuel common elements such as the club house; street lights; and hallways light fixtures. Unit owners could opted into becoming a member of a solar farm and own a portion of the panel array (called a share) or they could opt out. Those owners who become members of the array can then improve their current old heating system by converting to an electric, ductless mini-split system producing both heating and cooling which they never had before and adding value to their unit. With inexpensive electrical power available condominiums can consider adding fueling stations for battery driven automobiles further reducing fossil based fuel consumption and fostering cleaner air.
Those condo communities with an interest in using solar power in the future should be following locallegislative events. It is not too early to form an exploratory committee to review all of the special issues condos will face to implement solar power, as compared to an individual home owner. This research should reach out to other states who are ahead of Missouri’s solar curve. One good source is A Solar Guide for Condominiums Owners and Associations in Massachusetts easily found on Google.