Solar power is in the news with Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, announcing yesterday that New Zealand is supporting the construction of the Pacific’s largest solar energy array in Samoa. The Minister noted that renewable energy is a strong focus of New Zealand’s support to developing countries.
The increased focus on solar power is not just at an international level. In January 2014, the Wellington City Council announced the completion of its first 5kW solar array installation on a Council building, the Karori Recreation Centre. This was a demonstration project part funded by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (http://wellington.govt.nz/your-council/news/2014/01/solar-panels-to-help-power-karori-recreation-centre).
While there is clearly an acknowledgement of the potential of solar power, it is interesting to consider whether more can or should be done by government to encourage its use on a larger scale. Based on the overseas experience (including in the UK and Germany) this could include providing incentives for the installation of solar power sources by way of feed-in tariff (essentially a payment for electricity that gets returned to the grid) and/or with subsidies for the upfront purchase of the equipment required. Streamlining any building consent approvals that may be required could be another option. Doing so would certainly promote New Zealand’s clean green image, but the economics of large scale government support may be a more difficult issue.
It is an interesting area to watch. Depending on the success of demonstration project’s such as the Karori Recreation Centre, solar power design and installation could be a growth area in building projects, potentially at both a residential and commercial level.