The Orchards, Norwest, Sydney

South Australia’s plan to install 50,000 solar and battery systems free of charge, announced this week, has been labelled groundbreaking, and is a firm PR win for the state government ahead of what looks likely to be a difficult election in March.

Developers such as Sekisui House and Frasers Property are also realising the PR power of solar, with a growing number of free solar offers designed to lure new residential buyers.

Frasers Property this week announced it was offering a free four-kilowatt solar and 13.5kWh Tesla Powerwall system to those who purchase 3-4 bedroom homes in its Fairwater, Blacktown development in Sydney before 28 February. The value of the system is $18,000 fully installed.

The Fairwater development, which was the first in NSW to get a 6 Star Green Star Communities rating, is also the first residential estate in the southern hemisphere to use geothermal heating and cooling at scale.

Combining the savings from geothermal with the solar system, residents are expected to save about $1500 a year on energy bills.

A statement from Frasers said those who took up the offer would enjoy a buffer against rising energy costs, increased home value and a reduced carbon footprint. It said the Powerwall would also become increasingly important as the shift to electric cars occurred.

The Torrens-titled homes will be ready to occupy in August 2018.

A similar offer is being marketed by NSW volume home builder Allam Property Group, offering a $20,000 Bradford Solar and Tesla Powerwall package on homes purchased before 28 February, and estimating savings of up to $3800 a year.

The Orchards, Baulkham Hills

Sekisui House has also this year revealed a free solar initiative at The Orchards residential apartment development being built at Norwest in Sydney’s Hills District.

It is partnering with Flow Systems to construct one of the largest high-rise apartment solar systems in the world across 1000 square metres and 1300 apartments.

The system will feed in one-gigawatt-hours of energy a year to cover common area use, including powering an outdoor cinema and a wellness centre, in a move set to reduce strata fees.

Sekisui House marketing and operations manager Paul Wainwright said the move was about offering future residents peace of mind regarding energy costs.

“The issue of affordable and renewable energy in Australia is one that affects everyone, from households increasingly feeling the pinch, right through to small businesses, so it’s little wonder that state leaders around the country are looking for answers and options for consumers,” he said.

On top of the solar, Flow is also setting up a local energy utility – The Orchard’s Energy – to offer a bundled energy and monitoring package it expects to reduce individual energy bills by up to 35 per cent a year.

Flow Systems founder Terry Leckie said The Orchards’ energy system provided a service consumers expected from energy utilities.

“Customers want to see new products and services that use renewable energy generation like local solar and similar more efficient technologies to pass on meaningful savings to them,” he said.

Mr Wainwright said there were other benefits aside from energy bill reductions.

“In real terms, not only will the cost of living become markedly better for residents of The Orchards, but their property values will also benefit, with the obvious bonus of energy savings to this degree having a knock-on effect that results in lower community levies and strata costs.”