A $240,000 solar farm forecast to be worth its weight in power savings in a decade is being designed for the Palmerston North civic administration building.
The project is in the city council's draft Annual Plan, with 486 195-watt panels scheduled to be in place on the roof by the end of the year.
Sustainable and economic development project co-ordinator William van Ausdal said it was a great project, an example of doing something good for the environment while saving money at the same time.
The solar farm is expected to provide the city council building with 12 per cent of its electricity needs, about enough to keep things running when no-one is working in the offices.
It builds on the success of the new depot at the Esplanade, which has been generating enough energy to meet all of its own needs since November.
The efficiency had been boosted by the design of the building, well- insulated and located to catch as much natural light as possible, unlike the council building.
The farm will be 20 times bigger than the Esplanade system, and will generate 94 kilowatts of power. The council building is the third largest energy user of the council's operations, behind street lights and the wastewater treatment plant.
"This project shows how innovation can come from the council, when we step up and start walking the talk about sustainability," Mr van Ausdal said.
"This is about showing we are leaders. It reduces our environmental impact, but it is not just green-washing. We are also saving money." The council aims to reduce its overall energy consumption by 10 per cent and rely solely on renewable sources of energy by 2015.
Total annual savings are expected to be $25,000, depending on sunshine hours. Even after the cost of borrowing for the project, it is expected to save ratepayers $50,000 in 10 years.
Mr van Ausdal said the savings might be even better, as the technology used in solar panels was improving rapidly and prices were dropping.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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