Solar energy is one of our best ways forward when it comes to getting New Zealand to 100% renewable electricity generation. Currently the burning of coal and oil for our power is contributing further to our carbon emissions. With the 2050 net zero carbon goal set for NZ the sooner we can move away from these sources the better. Many Kiwis are taking matters into their own hands and installing PV solar on their homes to reduce power bills and operate on clean energy. However, there are more ways that we can apply solar energy as a country to reap the greatest rewards!
1. Rooftop Solar
The most common application of solar energy in New Zealand is rooftop PV solar. Many Kiwi’s add panels to their homes, as well as businesses that primarily operate during the daytime, to help reduce costs. Panels are secured to the roofs of these buildings in a configuration that will give them the most exposure to sunlight throughout the day. Often tilts are added to angle the panels for improved efficiency. When it comes to rooftop solar the size of the system is generally relative to the amount of power being used by the home or business. Excess power can be sold to the grid but many choose to add batteries to store excess power for use at night or in an outage. They are usually able to gain more value from this than what they would get back from power companies for supplying to the grid. Across the ditch in Australia 1 in 4 homes have a rooftop solar system installed which is something we are nowhere near here in NZ.
2. Ground Mounts - For Personal Use
The second most common way to set up PV solar is with ground mounts. We often see this in rural settings where there is plenty of space and it allows for users to have power in more remote areas. Sometimes it is used also if there is inadequate roof space or the roof is not strong enough to support panels. Panels are usually placed in rows on tilted brackets that face them north for maximum sun exposure. Large farms often use ground-mounted solar in the areas of their property where they can’t run power in order to operate machinery or pump water to other areas.
3. Ground Mounts - For Solar Farms
Solar farms are a growing commodity in New Zealand with many large investors converting areas of land to mount panels creating what is essentially a small power station. The expanse of panels is usually enough to support a whole community or small city with all the power generated sold back to the grid. These installations gain their profitability from this ability to be paid for the energy as well as the benefit to the local community to operate on clean energy. The Pukenui solar farm in Kaitaia (our region with the most expensive power) is set to begin supplying to the region before the end of the year and will be New Zealand's largest solar farm, powering over 3000 homes. Sheep will be grazed under this installation, like many others around the country, in order to keep the grass down.
4. Carpark Canopies
These installations are becoming popular overseas, especially as electric vehicle uptake increases. Canopies of solar panels create a carport-like shelter over vehicles in large car parks whilst also supplying power to the area. Many of these car parks then use this power to run electric vehicle charging infrastructure or power the surrounding buildings. This is becoming encouraged over ground mounted solar farms that are established on undeveloped land as it utilises land already cleared in cities and makes them dual use. In turn this creates less impact on the environment. I see these as a great opportunity to utilise large car park spaces, such as those at malls, airport parking and park and ride sites.
5. Solar Crop Farms
Overseas we are seeing more of this dual use approach with crops being grown underneath solar panels. A farm in Germany is using clear modules with panels mounted higher off the ground to allow them to walk and use machinery under the panels where they grow berries. The panels allow them to regulate the sunlight in order to generate better yields of fruit. They are then able to run the farm on clean solar energy and gain further profits by exporting the large amount that they don’t use to the grid. This is an application of solar that I can see being extremely applicable here in NZ with our strong agricultural economy.
Overall, the more that we can add PV solar panels to existing infrastructure the better as this has less impact on the environment than clearing land for solar farms. Using the land we have more efficiently is one of the core parts of becoming more sustainable and allows us to preserve more of our natural landscape that New Zealand is known for. Solar is the best energy source to join with our existing renewables so that our country can operate on clean energy making our electric vehicles, homes and businesses some of the cleanest in the world.
If you want to learn more about how ChargeSmart can bring any of these scenarios to life for you, please get in touch. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org