Australia’s Allume envisions a world where everyone can access clean and affordable energy from the sun. It believes everyone deserves the power to reduce their electricity bill and carbon footprint and that residents in multi-family buildings have been left out of the opportunity to take control of their electricity usage through rooftop solar for too long. It says its SolShare system can address that issue and make low cost, zero emissions electricity available to those who live in those buildings, whether they own or rent.
Allume has worked with several partners in Australia, where it says many public housing units lack air conditioning. They also often have little to no insulation, so if an air conditioner is installed, the cost of operation is a burden to low income families. Now Allume is bringing its SolShare technology to America. In a press release dated March 15, it says it has successful completed the commissioning of its SolShare clean energy technology at 805 Madison Street, an 8-unit multifamily building owned and operated by Belhaven Residential in Jackson, Mississippi. This latest project will help advance solar and behind the meter technologies in a market that traditionally is under-served by renewable energy initiatives.
Solar Alternatives, a Louisiana-based solar contractor, installed the 22 kW rooftop solar array at 805 Madison Street. But instead of averaging out that solar between tenants, as most multifamily solar projects do, Allume’s SolShare technology will measure and match solar output to each apartment’s energy usage on a second-by-second basis. The project was supported by the Mississippi Public Service Commission, central district commissioner Brent Bailey, and former Solar Innovation Fellow Alicia Brown. Entergy Mississippi, an integrated energy company that delivers electricity to 461,000 utility customers in 45 Mississippi counties, assisted with project funding.
“Belhaven Residential focuses on offering quality housing at affordable rates, and we have a holistic and long range vision for how to serve our tenants’ needs,” said Jennifer Welch, founder of Belhaven Residential. “Implementing solar with the goal to provide cleaner energy at affordable prices is a win for our tenants and a win for our environment.” The installation of the SolShare system and rooftop solar will increase on-site clean energy consumption and lower the energy burden for Belhaven Residential complex tenants, all of whom qualify for Mississippi’s low to moderate income benefits under the state’s distributed generation program.
“Residential consumers and building managers continue to pursue and embrace the benefits of a more sustainable energy portfolio, and I’m excited to see the results of our new rules and the partnerships that are developing in the community,” Commissioner Brent Bailey said. “The Distributed Generation Rules provide customer-focused programs that reduce risks, reduce energy consumption, and put money back into customers’ pockets.”
SolShare is the world’s only technology for sharing rooftop solar with multiple apartments in the same building. SolShare provides a solution for residents of apartment buildings who want to access the environmental and economic benefits of rooftop solar and it requires no change to the existing electricity supply and metering infrastructure. Previous SolShare installations have demonstrated electricity bill savings of up to 40%.
“Our team is thrilled to work with the Mississippi Public Service Commission and the Belhaven Residential team to lead the transition to clean, affordable energy in Mississippi,” said Aliya Bagewadi, Director of U.S. strategic partnerships at Allume Energy. “By bringing more proof of SolShare technology to Jackson residents, we’re demonstrating a scalable model for more equitable access to the environmental and financial benefits of solar for multifamily housing.”
Allume Solshare Lowers Utility Bills & Carbon Emissions
Technologies and programs that expand access to technologies like SolShare can reduce utility bills and decarbonize multifamily housing, which is particularly critical for low income tenants. According to the US Department of Energy, Mississippi’s low income residents currently experience the nation’s highest energy burden — 12% of total income. Most households in the South have electric heating and cooling systems in their homes. Those factors, along with the region’s high temperatures, drive up energy use which contributes to a higher energy burden despite Entergy Mississippi having some of the country’s lowest electricity rates.
With Mississippi currently ranking 35th in the nation for solar adoption, Allume and its partners believe installations like the one at 805 Madison Street will serve as a scalable model for democratizing access to clean technologies and cost-saving benefits for more low income residents across the Southeast.
“The SolShare is the only hardware technology in the world to do the work of splitting one single solar array into multiple meters,” Mel Bergsneider, Allume’s executive account manager told Canary Media. That bold assertion is backed up by the company’s patents as well as by the fact that it’s the first technology to receive Underwriters Laboratories certification as a “Power Division Control System” — a technology category created to specifically to match up with what SolShare does.
This kind of unit-by-unit precision is far from standard for multi-tenant solar projects, mainly because it’s hard to do. Wiring individual solar panels and inverters to individual apartments is costly and impractical. The other option — connecting solar to a property’s master meter and averaging out production across tenants — works in some markets such as California that allow “virtual net metering” or other methods that allow landlords and tenants to earn utility bill credits from power that’s imprecisely divvied up.
But that approach doesn’t work in many other markets such as Mississippi, which has among the lowest rates of rooftop solar adoption in the country, Bergsneider said. Mississippi’s net metering regulations don’t include virtual net metering options and offer customers relatively low payments for power that their rooftop solar systems export to the grid. That increases the value of technologies that can match solar to on-site energy use as closely as possible to replace power bought from the utility. SolShare was designed precisely for such circumstances, Bergsneider said. Self-consumption of solar power is the heart and soul of the SolShare system.
How Allume SolShare Works
The hardware consists of a power control platform installed between the property’s solar inverter and the meters serving individual apartment units or common areas. Sensors take sub-second readings of each meter to understand how much electricity each is using. Then its power division control system divides the amount of solar power available at that moment accordingly.
Aliya Bagewadi, Allume’s director of U.S. strategic partnerships told Canary Media the SolShare system can do quite a bit more. “Our software enables building owners to look into the performance of the asset, to see where the energy is being delivered, what’s the offset [of grid power consumption] for my tenants and the common areas, and toggle where the energy is going,” she said.
Property owners can use this flexibility to set up their preferred structures for distributing solar to tenants, Bagewadi said. That could include splitting up solar usage based on apartment square footage or other factors, or letting tenants choose whether they want to sign up under different terms that make sense for the property and the solar economics of the region. They can also redirect power away from vacant units to those that are still occupied. something that shared power systems can’t do without shutting off the meter.
Data Has Value Too
The data coming from the system also has value, Bergsneider said. “We’re working with major real estate companies that need to report on carbon footprint reductions, but they literally don’t know how much the rest of their building is using because they only control the common area or have access to the common-area bill,” she said.
That kind of data is increasingly important to property owners trying to improve the overall energy efficiency of their buildings. It’s also important for those seeking to manage their carbon emissions profiles to meet city performance benchmarks such as New York City’s Local Law 97, or to assess their portfolios’ performance toward environmental, social and governance goals, she noted.
SolShare may point the way forward for renewable energy and multi-family residential buildings at a time when the demand for zero emissions energy is rising everywhere.
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