Solar power takes off in Waikato

Last updated 09:09 07/03/2014
solar power, waikato

Heating up: Green Party energy spokesman Gareth Hughes with Hamilton homeowner Julie Harrison, who says solar panels have cut their power bill.

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Waikato homeowners are installing solar power at a rapid rate and the Green Party's plan to make it easier has been given the tick by a Waikato solar installer.

Faced with ever increasing electricity bills, homeowners and farmers have been turning to solar energy to cut bills.

Rob Adamson, a solar energy specialist at Right House in Hamilton, said Waikato was the biggest adopter of solar in the country.

"We install between one and two - sometimes three - systems a day," he said.

Business had increased over the past 12 months, he said, and he welcomed the Green Party's plan to offer cheap government loans so households can install solar panels.

The policy, announced last month, will see low interest loans of up to $15,000 offered to homeowners, who will then be able to repay them via rates.

Green Party energy spokesman Gareth Hughes, who was in Hamilton on Wednesday, said the policy would save households money, improve the efficiency of the electricity grid and create 1000 new jobs over three years.

"The average family taking advantage of our scheme would be $100 better off [a year] while they're paying off the system and once it's paid off they'd be $1000 better off every year."

The Green Party calculates that a 3 kilowatt solar array, which would produce about $1000 of electricity a year at today's prices, would cost about $10,000.

The repayments on the loan over 15 years would be about $900 a year at current rates, generating a net $100 saving.

Julie Harrison and her husband, Matthew, put a 2 kilowatt, eight panel system on the roof of their Silverdale house in October last year. The system cost $7500, but it has already cut power bills for the family of seven. "We've calculated that over an almost five-month period when we would normally have spent $636 on our electricity, we've spent just $110 because of the solar panels," she said.

Excess power is sold back to their power company, Meridian. Mr Adamson said that in most cases bills would drop as much as 40 or 50 per cent.

In the past week, Genesis and Contact have announced further price hikes for residential customers, blaming local lines companies for upping distribution costs. Increases would average 3.6 per cent nationally for Genesis customers, while Contact customers in Waikato are in line for a 6 per cent price spike.

Mr Hughes said more solar panels would flatten peak demand for electricity, and generators would not need to use gas and coal produced power.

Mr Adamson said that if more people had solar systems there would be a chance to "micro-grid", which meant less power drawn from the electricity grid.

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- Waikato Times


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