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Solar-Powered Property Developments: Striking a Balance between Profitability and Sustainability

March 24, 2024
MALAYSIA

With the ever-increasing threat of climate change, the role of property developers adds on a new dimension - entailing not only economic viability but also a shared responsibility towards sustainability. The property development sector now finds itself at a crossroads of addressing Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) needs where commercial aspirations must harmonise with climate change mitigation efforts and sustainability goals.

Integrating solar energy solutions in property developments is a pivotal strategy to strike this delicate balance, fostering environmentally responsible projects while maintaining commercial success. Solar energy, a reliable and abundant energy source, can be used to power urban infrastructure, including buildings, lamps, and vehicles. By planning ahead, reduced energy use and a smaller carbon footprint can both be achieved by designing buildings to maximise sunshine exposure.

Benefits of Solar Panels to Property Developments

Solar panels can add value to homes and increase their selling price. A study analysing home sales transactions across eight states in the US found that home buyers are consistently willing to pay premiums for homes with solar panels, with average premiums equating to approximately $4/W or $15,000 for an average-sized 3.6-kW PV system.1 This indicates that solar panels can be a valuable investment for property developers.

Furthermore, solar panels can contribute to energy savings and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Deploying rooftop solar photovoltaic panels has been shown to reduce daily citywide cooling energy demand by 8-11%.2 This not only reduces energy costs but also has environmental benefits by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, solar panels can help mitigate urban heat islands (UHIs) by reducing near-surface air temperature. This is particularly important in hot, semi-arid urban environments where cooling demands are excessive.

Solar panels also offer the advantage of being a renewable energy source with unlimited raw materials and resources. They provide clean and pollution-free energy, contributing to sustainable development and reducing environmental pollution.3 In regions with high solar radiation, such as Iran, solar energy becomes even more important as a reliable and accessible source of energy.4 By installing solar panels, property developments can reduce their dependence on the traditional electricity grid, leading to significant savings on energy bills and a reduced carbon footprint.

Additionally, solar panel recycling has the potential to greatly improve the sustainability of the solar energy industry. High-temperature density separation has been identified as a promising recycling method, offering benefits such as higher efficiency, potential for energy recovery, and lower environmental impact.5 This ensures that solar panels can be recycled and their materials reused, reducing waste and promoting a circular economy.

Decreasing Upfront Costs to Property Developers

Despite the substantial benefits of solar panels for residents, high upfront costs may burden developers. Initially, solar energy integration strategies may carry high costs but yield high benefits. However, as solar panel costs decrease and efficiency improves, these strategies could shift to being low-cost with high benefits in the medium term.

Regardless, it is important to note that the cost-effectiveness of solar energy in property developments can vary depending on factors such as location, available incentives, and the size of the solar installation. However, recent evidence suggests that techniques for measuring the energy savings and costs of solar panels have improved.6 This means that property developers can make more accurate assessments of the cost-effectiveness of solar energy in their developments.

According to a study conducted in Colombia, the cost of implementing a solar tracking system for photovoltaic solar electric energy production in the municipality of Acacias was found to be economically viable.7 The study analysed the economic and environmental benefits of using solar panels with a tracking system and found that the payback period for the investment was approximately six years. This indicates that property developers may potentially recoup their initial investment relatively quickly and start benefiting from the cost savings associated with solar energy.

Furthermore, the cost of solar panels has been decreasing over the years due to advancements in technology and increased production. The declining cost of solar panels has made them more accessible and affordable for property developers. In fact, the cost of solar panels has dropped by more than 70% in the past decade.8 This trend suggests that the cost of implementing solar panels in property developments is becoming increasingly cost-effective.

In conclusion, solar panels have several considerable advantages for real estate ventures. They can boost property values, promote energy efficiency and decrease reliance on fossil fuels, reduce urban heat islands, create chances for recycling and sustainability, and generate renewable and clean energy. To enjoy these advantages and aid in creating a more sustainable future, real estate developers ought to consider including solar panels in their constructions.

References
  1. Adomatis, S., Jackson, T. J., Graff-Zivin, J., Thayer,M., Klise, G. T., Wiser, R., … & Hoen, B. (2015). Selling Into the Sun:Price Premium Analysis Of A Multi-state Dataset Of Solar Homes.
    https://doi.org/10.2172/1172644
  2. Salamanca, F., Georgescu, M. I., Mahalov, A., Moustaoui, M., Martilli, A.(2016). Citywide Impacts Of Cool Roof and Rooftop Solar Photovoltaic DeploymentOn Near-surface Air Temperature And Cooling Energy Demand. Boundary-LayerMeteorology, 1(161), 203-221.
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s10546-016-0160-y
  3. He, W. (2023). Solar Maximum Power Point Tracking Algorithm Based On WaveletNeural Network. Journal of Applied Data Sciences, 1(4), 30-37. https://doi.org/10.47738/jads.v4i1.7
  4. Rezvani, M., Gholami, A., Gavagsaz-Ghoachani, R., Zandi, M. (2023). A Review Onthe Effect Of Dust Properties On Photovoltaic Solar Panels’ Performance.Journal of Renewable and New Energy, 1(10), 198-211.https://doi.org/10.52547/jrenew.10.1.198
  5. Hua, M. and Imam, R. (2022). Concept For Solar Panel Recycling Based On High-temperature Density Separation. Journal of Student Research, 4(11). https://doi.org/10.47611/jsrhs.v11i4.3763
  6. Gillingham, K., Newell, R. G., Palmer, K. (2006). Energy Efficiency Policies: a Retrospective Examination. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 1(31), 161-192.
    https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.energy.31.020105.100157
  7. Aya, Á. A. R., Luna, J., García, J. A. (2018). Economic and Environmental Benefits In The Production Of Photovoltaic Solar Electric Energy Using A Solar Tracking System In The Municipality Of Acacias - Meta (Colombia). International Journal of Engineering and Technology, 2(10), 345-352. https://doi.org/10.21817/ijet/2018/v10i2/181002003
  8. Samosir, A. S., Gusmedi, H., Purwiyanti, S., Komalasari, E. (2018). Modeling and Simulation Of Fuzzy Logic Based Maximum Power Point Tracking (Mppt) For Pv Application. International Journal of Electrical and Computer Engineering (IJECE), 3(8), 1315.
    https://doi.org/10.11591/ijece.v8i3.pp1315-1323

To learn more about balancing commercial objectives with solar energy integration within a Malaysian context, check out PropertyGuru For Business’ ESG Report HERE.

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