GRID TIE SOLAR IS BECOMING MAIN STREAM
Photovoltaic (PV) solar power generation has made enormous advances.The cost of panels and assorted gear has fallen dramatically so that in NZ grid tie solar systems in the 3.0 KW peak power range can be purchased from NZ$10,500.00 (including GST) installed. (This depends on the difficulty of the installation)
Grid tie PV systems, to make sure its clear what I mean here, are systems consisting of a set of solar panels, often 15 panels of 200 watts each, and a grid tie inverter which feeds the solar power into the 240V mains system at your home.
Once installed the power that is generated by the rooftop panels feeds into the 240V mains system. Power required by the home is then derived from this source. If the requirements of the home exceed what’s generated, additional power flows in from the mains and your power meter runs forward as usual. But if your home requires less energy than the panels are generating, often the case on a sunny day, the excess power is fed into the grid and your meter runs backwards, or so it should. More about this below.
A typical 2KW peak system will produce in a year some 2,500 KWh of electric energy. At a typical retail price of NZ$0.25 per KWh this is $625.00 worth of energy or a return on the $9,000 investment of 6.9% an excellent return TAX FREE! Better than any bank can offer you at this time.
Home-generated solar PV power has become cost effective and the so called “grid parity” point has been reached, at least at retail prices. Unfortunately, a meter running backwards when your panels are at peak power is impossible in New Zealand, because in order to legally connect your system to the grid you must install a two register meter. One of its registers runs only forward and counts the KWh delivered to your home by you power company while the second meter register runs the other way, registering the KWh that you have generated above your own consumption and thus fed into the net for others to use.
Most of NZ’s power companies will only pay you at the electricity wholesale for your feed in power while charging you at their retail rate for the power they deliver. But there is one shining exception: Meridian. Meridian will pay you dollar for dollar. This arrangement is fantastic as you truly receive a retail price level reward for each and every KWh you produce, either you consume it yourself and avoid paying the power company or you feed it into the grid and get rewarded just the same.
This Statement is from Meridian Energy -
“Meridian does not have any published material confirming out current one-for-one policy. I can confirm that for small scale distributed generation, we do credit customers for the electricity they sell back to the grid at the same rate as they pay for the electricity they use. This is subject to change, just like all of our rates, however we do notify customers of this in writing at least 30 days prior to any change.”
In other words, while the deal is good as it lasts, it has no tenure and Meridian can cancel it with 30 days notice. All other power companies I contacted will confirm that they pay a feed in tariff of the whole sale price around $0.06 per KWh only.
There is one other notable exception and I would recommend to check it out: The Sustainable Electricity Association of New Zealand has negotiated a deal for their members.
“Contact Energy has a standing arrangement with SEANZ that has been in play now for over 5 years, whereby SEANZ members and their clients (if SEANZ member works within the supply chain) can sign up for a payment of 17.25c per kWh. Although not a 1 for 1, Contact have not moved on their commitment and history supports the fact that there is certainty with contract tenure. They also acknowledge that they are losing money on each transaction but they will honour the commitment negotiated. Contact are a SEANZ member and have initiatives in play to move into this space in the supply chain.”
Successive NZ governments have declined to introduce feed-in tariff (FIT) regulations in NZ, pointing to the fact that NZ already produces some 60+% of its electricity by sustainable means.
However we believe distributed PV generation is an ideal component for the NZ grid and what’s more, our confidence in our hydro power generation may well be misplaced. Climate change may well result in significant shifts in rain distribution and seasonal melt water run off. In dry years our hydro systems are already stretched to the limit.
What could be better than to enlist ordinary home owners to add solar PV to their buildings en masse, right now? No need to sell state assets or to tout for foreign funds to build our wind farms if thousands of residents can achieve just as much, one roof at a time.