Element - - Business -

Large scale so­lar power has per­haps been a vic­tim of New Zealand’s suc­cess in tap­ping into our other abun­dant sources of re­new­able power: wind, wa­ter and geo­ther­mal. The largest elec­tric­ity gen­er­at­ing so­lar ar­ray in New Zealand is the 84kW so­lar plant re­cently in­stalled on the roof of Shed 10 on Auck­land’s wa­ter­front. Putting that into per­spec­tive, the world’s largest pho­to­voltaic ar­ray, which is cur­rently un­der con­struc­tion in Cal­i­for­nia, is planned to pro­duce 579 Megawatts, or roughly 8000 times that. So­lar power makes up only about 0.1 per cent of New Zealand’s elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion, there are no sub­si­dies for do­mes­tic in­stal­la­tion of pho­to­voltaic sys­tems. There is also no ‘feed-in tar­iff’ like those in other coun­tries, which are used to help in­cen­tivise re­new­able elec­tric­ity pro­duc­tion by pro­vid­ing a min­i­mum price for the power gen­er­ated. In ad­di­tion, the govern­ment sub­sidy for so­lar hot wa­ter heat­ing has fin­ished. De­spite all this, how­ever, in­creas­ing power prices and de­creas­ing costs of so­lar tech­nol­ogy mean mi­cro-gen­er­a­tion from so­lar power is al­ready com­pet­i­tive and worth­while, par­tic­u­larly if your home is an en­ergy ef­fi­cient one.

A host of small and medium-sized so­lar power com­pa­nies are spread across the coun­try, pro­vid­ing prod­ucts and ser­vices to en­thu­si­asts, home­own­ers in lo­ca­tions where an ‘off-grid’ so­lu­tion can be cost-ef­fec­tive, and sup­port­ive busi­nesses, in­clud­ing the likes of Hub­bards ce­re­als and Ge­n­e­sis En­ergy School­gen pro­gramme, which has been work­ing with Auck­land’s Pow­ertech to in­stall so­lar power to more than 50 schools around the coun­try.

Fur­ther re­search on im­prove­ments to so­lar elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion is un­der­way, in­clud­ing work by Pro­fes­sor Keith Gor­don of the Univer­sity of Otago, but for the time

So­lar power makes up only about 0.1 per cent of New Zealand’s elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion

be­ing it is clear that New Zealan­ders will re­main a price taker and cus­tomer for the world’s big so­lar power sys­tem man­u­fac­tur­ers, par­tic­u­larly in China, rather than a ma­jor pro­ducer in our own right.

It might be worth us re­con­sid­er­ing. Lux Re­search pre­dicts that the so­lar pho­to­voltaic mar­ket is ex­pected to grow to a US$155 bil­lion in­dus­try by 2018.

New Zealand’s largest so­lar ar­ray re­sides on the roof of Shed 10 on Queen’s Wharf, Auck­land.

Photo: sup­plied.

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