Solar heating project report delayed

A year-long pilot solar water heating project in Southland homes and businesses has failed to deliver its final report to Venture Southland.

Nelson-based SolarCity New Zealand Limited now says it was a "longitudinal study" designed to report data across two to three years and no date had been fixed to report the final results.

The SolarCity-run project involved 20 homes and five businesses in Southland.

It was supported, but not funded, by Venture and endorsed by Invercargill City, Southland and Gore district councils.

Venture Southland group manager enterprise and strategic projects Steve Canny confirmed last week the project findings were overdue.

Venture had asked SolarCity for the final wrap-up report during a conference call in late November.

"The report was supposed to be completed and due to us by now. We're not sure what the hold-up is," Mr Canny said.

SolarCity chief executive Andrew Booth said at the moment it was a three-year planning horizon for the data collection. "We're due to report interim data at the end of [March] next year at Venture Southland."

Southland data for performance and sunshine hours was tracking ahead of expectations but an early key finding had been that the age of the housing stock, especially hot water cylinders, raised potentially prohibitive plumbing upgrade costs. "We don't advocate fitting solar hot water panels to hot water cylinders that are older than five years because you start to impact performance."

The cost of photovoltaic panels, which generate power rather than just heating water, was falling and it may make more economic sense to look at that for regions like Southland, he said.

Asked if there was a firm date for the end of the project Mr Booth said: "We haven't fixed a date with Steve or those guys yet."

However, it was presented to the public as a year-long pilot and media releases still featuring on Venture Southland and SolarCity's websites state: "The data collected across the year-long pilot scheme will be made available to residents and the councils to illustrate the financial and environmental benefits of a solar scheme."

The Southland Times