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Centre finally harnessing sun's energy

ALEX FENSOME
Last updated 05:00 03/12/2012
Michael Thomas with the new solar panel array installed at SIT’s renewable energy centre.
NICOLE GOURLEY/Fairfax NZ
SOLAR POWER: Michael Thomas with the new solar panel array installed at SIT’s renewable energy centre.

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The Southern Institute of Technology's Renewable Energy Centre is finally producing its own electricity after an eight-panel solar array was installed on its roof.

Michael Thomas, the executive director of Sustainable Buildings Alliance, oversaw the project to install the panels, which was completed last week.

It took a year to do all the paperwork necessary to install them, he said. "Purchase orders, invoices, building consents, power company forms, checking in with power and lines companies . . . there's a lot to it."

Mr Thomas, who moved to New Zealand from Seattle six years ago, said he wanted to make it easier for people to install solar panels and educate homeowners and electricians about the technology.

The eight panels produce 1.5 kilowatts of electricity. On Wednesday, they made 5.5 kilowatt hours and made 2.8kw/h by 2pm yesterday.

The electricity is sent from the panels into an inverter, then to a circuit panel and into the grid.

The setup, which includes an adjustable frame which can alter the tilt of the panels, costs $5500.

It can be linked to Mr Thomas' home computer for monitoring.

Mr Thomas said it was making $1.50 a day, which makes roughly $550 a year. The panels will be paid back in 10 years.

Once it has paid back, of course, all the electricity produced will be profit.

Mr Thomas is also installing an array at a private residence in the city but it will be tilted at a different angle to see if it changes the amount of electricity produced.

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- The Southland Times

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