Less energy than hoped from council solar farm

POWERLESS: The solar farm on Palmerston North's city council buildings has been performing below expectations.
POWERLESS: The solar farm on Palmerston North's city council buildings has been performing below expectations.

Palmerston North's solar farm on the city council buildings' roofs has generated 16 per cent less energy than anticipated in its first five months of operation.

Residents will be able to watch online on the council's website whether predictions that it will make up that lost ground during summer will be realised.

The $215,000 installation of 400 solar panels atop the civic administration building and convention centre was expected to produce 118,000kWh a year - enough to meet about 10 per cent of the council building's energy needs.

Head of strategy and policy Neil Miller said so far, 37,200kWh had been produced.

That is about 31 per cent of the total forecast for the year, five months into the operation.

Miller said data logging had not functioned during the farm's first few days of generation in February, so those early summer figures had not been captured in the tally.

There were no plans to revise the prediction at this stage.

Shorter winter days had been factored into the equation, he said, but the number of sunshine hours expected had been a best guess.

Summer sunshine still had the potential to help the solar farm reach its target.

Miller said making the solar farm's performance visible for anyone to watch online was a good fit with the council's vision of a sustainable future.

"The council is leading New Zealand local government in the adoption of renewable energy initiatives.

"We strive to be a carbon zero organisation by 2050.

"The council is generating energy from its own renewable energy resources, including solar water heating systems, at six council-owned sites and the solar farm."

The solar farm produces best at times when the civic administration building's demand for energy for air conditioning is greatest, helping reduce the peak electricity demand that has to be bought in.

The council is billed dependent on the amount of electricity used at peak times, so managing those peaks provides the opportunity to reduce prices.

To find the monitor recording the solar farm's output at pncc.govt.nz, go to Your Council, click on Our Performance and scroll down to "Our Sustainability and Climate Change".

Manawatu Standard