Apartment Complexes Becoming Hot Market For Solar In San Antonio
July 9, 2018
Over the past year, at least three luxury apartment complexes systems have added a combined half megawatt of solar to the power grid in San Antonio. Freedom Solar finished a 245-kilowatt system at the Villas at the Rim in the northwest part of the city. Freedom Solar also installed a 93-kilowatt system at the Laurel Glen apartment complex off Loop 1605 and Bandera Road in March.
Multifamily properties are becoming a growth market for San Antonio solar companies.
Over the past year, at least three luxury apartment complexes systems have added a combined half megawatt of solar to the power grid, and a project at a fourth apartment complex under development is expected to add more.
Go Smart Solar installed a 169-kilowatt system at the River House Apartments in downtown San Antonio last summer, laying claim to being “the largest solar power system ever installed at a multifamily property in San Antonio.”
It’s a title that wouldn’t last long, as a couple of months later, Freedom Solar finished a 245-kilowatt system at the Villas at the Rim in northwest San Antonio. Freedom Solar also installed a 93-kilowatt system at the Laurel Glen apartment complex off Loop 1604 and Bandera Road in March. And the company recently landed a contract to add solar to an apartment complex being built at University Village, a $320 million mixed-use development off UTSA Boulevard.
The apartment complexes are using large solar power systems to generate electricity in common areas such as swimming pools, clubhouses, parking garages, elevators, gyms, hallways and offices. Freedom Solar Sales Director Kyle Frazier views multifamily properties as one of the fastest-growing verticals for the industry.
“All of those amenities require power, and the owner pays that light bill,” Frazier said. “It’s built into the rental rates, but apartment complexes are now able to reduce their common area maintenance fees and charges through solar.”
Enabled by federal tax credits and rebates from city-owned utility company CPS Energy, Frazier said there are two approaches for multifamily properties to adopt solar: the “develop and flip” model and the “buy and hold” model.
“Solar appeals to both, but for different reasons,” Frazier said.
Under the “develop and flip” model, apartment complex developers use solar to generate higher operating income with an eye on selling the property. When coupled with occupancy and rental rates, Frazier said properties that use solar have lower expenses and generate higher operating incomes — making them more attractive to buyers.
Apartment complex owners using the “buy and hold” model use solar to cut operating expenses and increase profits. The model works particularly well for apartments complexes with high light bills or those where utilities are included as part of the rent, Frazier said.
“It’s like adding 10 percent more units to your complex,” Frazier said. “It’s a way for a property owner to add more value to an already existing complex.”
Rob Schumacher, one of the developers for University Village, told the Business Journal that adding renewables was a moral and business decision.
“We are a ‘buy and hold’ [company] and did it not only to reduce operating costs but because it’s the right thing to do for the environment,” Schumacher said. “Solar is clean and abundant. If more people did it, the cost would come down. That’s our goal.”