Here comes the sun's generation

ALASTAIR PAULIN
Last updated 10:33 18/08/2014
solar
ALASTAIR PAULIN/FAIRFAX NZ

NEW AND IMPROVED: Current Generation installation foreman Shane Naughton, from left, and owner Arny Ahnfeldt check out the new solar panels with Kimi Ora managers Karina Glaser and Aaron Dunbar.

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The largest solar electricity system in the region has been installed at Kimi Ora Eco Resort in Kaiteriteri.

A north-facing hillside behind the resort is covered with 256 square metres of solar panels, which are expected to produce 59,000 kilowatt-hours per year, enough to power eight average homes.

Resort manager Aaron Dunbar said that because the majority of the power produced would be consumed on-site, the savings should mount up quickly.

The $110,000 40-kilowatt system is expected to pay for itself in savings in 6.4 years.

The grid-tied system can feed back to the national power grid but most of the power it produces will be sucked up by the demands of the busy 23-unit resort.

"That's where the savings are because the power company only gives you half of what they charge you," said Dunbar.

He said the resort's winter power bills averaged about $5000 and in summer were about $3000.

The system had long been a dream of Kimi Ora's owner, Dietmar Glaser, who is Dunbar's father-in-law.

"He's always been far ahead of others in his ideas and he loves this sort of stuff. It also fits the image of the eco-resort," said Dunbar.

Glaser spent a month clearing the steep hillside of gorse and scrub and then Kimi Ora staff built the timber frames that the panels are mounted on.

The installation by Nelson company Current Generation took about a month.

Current Generation installation foreman Shane Naughton said because of worldwide demand bringing down the cost of solar panels, the cost of solar installations was about a third of what it was five years ago.

Company owner Arny Ahnfeldt said he had seen a lot more interest in solar over the past three years but that at about $10,000 for a three kilowatt system, which would provide about half the power for an average home, it was still a "significant investment".

He believed the 40-kilowatt system was the largest in Nelson/Tasman and one of the largest in the country. A 17-kilowatt system in Collingwood was probably the area's next largest.

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