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Are Solar Panels the answer to our need for renewable energy?

The quest for viable renewable energy sources rages across the world. Solar power seems to be a great answer to the problem. And, in beautiful sunny New Zealand shouldn’t every home have solar panels to take advantage of the sun’s powerful rays? In theory, yes. But the cost of installing solar panels may not be practical for most New Zealand homes.

Let’s explore if solar panels are the right choice for your place or not.

Solar Power: renewable energy at its finest

The practicalities: wouldn’t it be amazing to halve your power bill and make your own energy? You would think that installing solar panels would allow you to do that, and some solar sales people would have you believe that too. But in reality, it is not as easy as that.

Solar is a great way of generating power. But most of the power generation is done during the day when the sun is shining down. Unless you have the means to store the energy in effective batteries, by the time night comes, much of it is gone. Unfortunately, if you are out of the house at work all day, then you have missed your chance to use the bulk of your energy.

Because of this issue, most installers will recommend that you get a grid linked system. That means that your home is still linked to the local power grid and you can tap into that when you run out of solar power. But, you still have to pay for that power that you are using through the grid while your daytime energy goes to waste.

But can’t you just negate that cost by selling your solar energy back to your provider so that it returns to the grid?

Selling your solar power back

If you select a grid linked system then you can choose to sell the excess energy you don’t use back to your energy provider. Most providers will give you 8c per kilowatt for the energy you generate. It’s a pretty cool feeling to know you are earning money for no other reason than having solar panels.

But, don’t rush into installing the biggest solar system out there in the hope that you can retire from your earnings. Solar panels are most cost effective if you can use your energy when it is generated. So you need to have someone at home during the day to put the washing on, do the vacuuming, and to get dinner on early. You also need to have all of your showers in the morning so your hot water can heat back up over the course of the day.

If you are out of the house for most of the day, then you might not see the benefit of selling your energy back. Because night time power usage is a premium, your energy provider will charge you upwards of 20c per kilowatt.

So it will cost you more to use power in the evening than what you are making from sending power back to the grid during the day.

For that reason it is recommended that you only invest in a system that generates solar power relevant to your situation. If you can use your energy during the day then you may choose a larger system. If you mainly use your power at night then you want a high quality battery that can store some power from the day.

The cost of a solar power system

It would be amazing if all new homes could be equipped with solar panels for ongoing renewable energy generation. But in reality, solar panel systems are still very expensive. The batteries required, and the cost to install the system can put it out of reach of many New Zealand families.

A standard solar power system could cost anywhere between $6,000 and $15,000 depending on the size needed and what kind of batteries you require to store the energy. Even if you are saving $100 a month on your power bill, that is still going to take a long time until you see a cost saving return on your investment.

The good news is that the cost of solar systems have definitely come down in the last few years. If the trend continues, then it might put solar power within reach for many more New Zealanders. That would be fantastic as it is such a great source of renewable energy. We would love to see solar panels on every new home built to start with, and then installation on all existing houses too.

New Zealand has a clean and green reputation, so we would love it if the country could adopt a clean and green power source too.

Disclaimer As with all our blogs, the information detailed here is general in nature and meant as a preliminary guide only. This should not be substituted for your own investigations or use of your own professional’s. Planning Plus is not liable for any errors or omissions.

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