It’s not often you’re walking along an inner-city back street and suddenly there is a wall of sleek black solar panels almost at head height, nicely setting off the peek-a-boo windows and dangling greenery overflowing from an architecturally designed family home.

As solar stretches its tendrils from the outer suburbs inwards, however, this sort of application of photovoltaic technology is something city-dwellers should expect to see more of.

The “Welcome to the Jungle house in Darlington, near the fringe of the University of Sydney, is interesting for all sorts of reasons. Many of the haphazardly-placed windows spill vines on, you guessed it, Vine Street, and the elevated rooftop garden is kind of hard to work out. Can you walk on it? Or do you walk under it?

Like all sensible folk, the owners included their own electricity plant in their plans for the total makeover of this sharp-angled street corner. And because it’s a good idea to save your solar and use it at home instead of sell it to a retailer for not much, and because they could afford to, they included a battery.

EcoGeneration spoke to Johnson Lee of Australia Wide Solar, the chap who delivered the PV component of this very cool house and won this year’s CEC Solar Award for grid-connect PV power system with battery back-up under 30kW.

Johnson Lee, PV engineer at Australia Wide Solar.

How long have been in solar and what sort of work do you normally do?

As a photovoltaic engineer, I have been in the solar industry for over 15 years. My day-to-day role in Australia Wide Solar includes system design and commissioning.

What was the brief for the job you’ve been nominated for?

The house has been designed to be an example of sustainability. As the roof of the building has been utilised as a roof top garden with an aquaponics system built into it, the solar panels were installed on the north-facing wall to complete the example of sustainability.

Tell us about your solution and installation.

Installing solar panels on the vertical wall required extensive consultation with the architect and builder in ensuring the timber stud wall was built to our specification. This was important as fixings had to be in the correct position so that the visible mid and end clamps are evenly spaced when the solar mounting structure is installed.

Another challenge was there is window located between the solar panels, and that window is sized to fit with the solar panels. As the lead time of architectural projects from concept to completion can take a few years, we locked in solar panels that were roughly the same dimensions early in the project. Installing the solar panels flush to the edge of the window frame was also an important challenge.

What equipment was used?

The solar panel used is a custom order WINAICO WSP-300 with a black backsheet connected to SolarEdge optimisers. The panels were mounted to Schletter rail. A SolarEdge StorEdge SE5000 Hybrid Inverter was used with a LG Chem RESU10H lithium battery.

A Reposit Power controller was installed to manage the battery and for the client to view their energy consumption via the Reposit app.

Do you have any information on bill savings or energy use?

Having solar panels installed on a vertical wall, winter performance is accentuated compared to conventional rooftop installations. However, with the increase of sun hours in the other seasons, the yield is fairly consistent throughout the year. Having Reposit Power manage the LG Chem battery will allow off-peak charging of the battery for use during the peak period.

Are you happy with how the job turned out?

The system is a testament to our team’s ability to design and install bespoke energy systems. Being a premium solar installer in Sydney with a focus on high end properties, we consistently provide solutions that meet client expectations.