Solar panels get thumbs up from consumers

HOT STUFF: Cambridge’s Martin Lee is installing solar panels on his tractor shed roof and likes the sound of the Green Party’s solar panel scheme.
HOT STUFF: Cambridge’s Martin Lee is installing solar panels on his tractor shed roof and likes the sound of the Green Party’s solar panel scheme.

Things are heating up in the debate over solar panels.

Green co-leader Russel Norman has promised cheap government loans for the installation of solar panels in homes, saving the typical householder $100 a year on power.

His election campaign pledge would offer householders loans of up to $15,000 to install solar panels, which would have to be repaid over 15 years.

But Prime Minister John Key claims the policy would push up power prices and drive out competition.

"If you look at the big emissions at the moment in New Zealand, it's Genesis through Huntly, where they have coal-fired power plants, and the plan that [the Greens] have got is going to reduce all competition and in my view, put up power costs to consumers, not reduce it, actually locks that in," Mr Key said.

"Once you start locking in the market it doesn't work."

Cambridge man Martin Lee, a rural real estate agent for PGG Wrightson, is weeks away from having 12 photovoltaic cells installed on his tractor shed roof and believes the spend is a no-brainer.

"If you have got $4000 in the bank you are only getting something like 3 per cent interest, or you can get 8 per cent back by putting in photovoltaic cells.

"I'm installing 12 photovoltaic panels generating 3 kilowatts and I will probably only use half of it and the other half can go back into the grid.

"Meridian is paying the most at the moment, paying about 25 cents for the first 5 kilowatts per day and about 11 cents after that."

Mr Lee described Mr Key's stance as "a little bit short-sighted".

"I have just come back from three years in France where photovoltaic cells are on every new building," Mr Lee said.

Maverick Energy consultant Richard Upperton said most users would pay off their panels when they were halfway through their working life.

"There is no reason why a solar system will not have a lifespan of 30 years plus," he said.

"We need to move away from the inefficiencies of transmitting power over long distances and go back to a more distributed model as it was in the early 1900s.

"Distributed generation makes for a more stable network if done correctly."

He said installing solar photovoltaic panels in built-up areas was a good idea, as most of these areas had small to large business surrounding them that use electricity during the day, which is when these residential solar systems would be generating.

"Therefore generated photovoltaic electricity would be used locally . . . from systems that are owned by locals."

Mr Upperton said New Zealanders needed to take control over their energy costs and generating their own is one way in which to achieve this.

Dr Norman said the Greens were offering families the opportunity to produce their own clean, affordable power.

Green Party energy spokesman Gareth Hughes said with the average annual electricity bills up by $392 in the last five years, and over 2000 annual sunshine hours, people in the Counties, Thames Valley, King Country and Waikato stood to gain a lot from the solar policy.

"People are paying too much for their power, and the Greens want to make it easier for people to benefit from solar and save money."

Waikato Times