Solar energy is abundant, and its free
Use NIWA’s Solarview calculator to see how much energy is available at your place throughout the year.
It might be an economical alternative already. With talk of asset sales of power companies, and possible free-market ownership and control, the subject of the new economies of distributed solar energy is topical and important. The proposed asset sales are supposed to keep 51% in NZ hands, but whether that transpires or not in the long-term is an open question. Contact Energy for example was sold down the river years ago. It is now outside New Zealand’s control, and is based in Australia. I’m disappointed that the economy of solar energy solution is not assured. We’re in an ideal situation at our place in Alexandra, with the necessary shade-free 40 square meters of north-facing roof area in a sunny location. The trouble is that there is a disconnect between the times the energy arrives and the times you need it (and storage costs extra). The solar energy supply comes in the daylight hours, mainly in summer, but the majority of household demand is in the night, mainly in winter. There is no guarantee that you can sell excess energy back to the grid at competitive rates. Leadership is needed.
My son Hamish is US-based journalist. He helped me with this opinion piece in the 20 June 2012 issue of the Otago Daily Times.