It's not all sunshine and rainbows - the challenges of solar panel systems within manufactured home parks
It is common for park owners to own the electrical infrastructure within a park and configure that electrical infrastructure to enable it to sell electricity to residents. The electricity network within the park is known as an “embedded network.”
The connection of solar panel systems within a manufactured home park creates a unique set of challenges for a park owner. The park owner has to balance the residents’ desire to connect solar panel systems and the potential liability that may arise for the park owner as the owner of the embedded network.
To assist park owners assess their liability we have set out below some key questions to consider prior to allowing residents to connect solar panel systems within an embedded network.
It is an offence under section 28 of the Electricity Regulation 2006 (Qld) to connect a generating plant (e.g. a solar panel system) to a supplier’s network without its agreement. This allows the supplier to manage the impact of the electricity exported from solar panel systems (and other generating plant) into its network.
In the case of an embedded network, the supplier (i.e. Ergon or Energex) delivers electricity to the park owner at one or more connection points. It has no visibility past that connection point to the customers of the park owner (i.e. the residents). From the supplier’s perspective it is the park owner who is responsible for any generating plant connected to the supplier’s network via the embedded network .This means that the park owner, not the resident, must enter into a connection agreement with the supplier.
The connection agreement will:
The limits imposed in the connection agreement mean that at some point the supplier will reject further applications to connect solar panel systems. This will create inconsistency in the park i.e. residents who request to install solar panel systems in the future may not be permitted to do so because of the generation and export capacity caps imposed by the supplier in the connection agreement.
It is common for an electricity supply agreement to require the purchaser of electricity (i.e. the park owner) to purchase all electricity used at the premises from the relevant electricity retailer. There may also be provisions that require the purchaser to buy a minimum amount of electricity or prohibit a material change in consumption. The installation of solar panel systems within an embedded network may breach the terms of the electricity supply agreement and expose the park owner to liability.
Consideration should be given to providing for solar panel systems in your site agreements. Clause 5.2.4 of Part 2 of the Form 2 site agreement provides that “the home owner/s must not make any alterations to the home that are visible from the outside or any additions to the home unless the park owner gives written consent”. If relevant, park owners should also consider including a special term in their site agreements that specifically deals with solar panel systems.
If the park owner would like to allow residents to connect solar panel systems we recommend that the park owner comply with the following steps.
We recommend that park owners exercise caution before allowing the connection of solar panel systems within their embedded network and seek specific advice on the matters set out above. To gain further advice or information, please contact our Manufactured Homes team.