Solar power has been a long time in getting good. For far too long it had been more of a novelty than a mass market product.
Then it slowly moved into the green enthusiast arena.
And finally, we really are now starting to see systems that not only make some sense, but due to significant price drops, can actually give a realistic return on investment.
That is, they can pay for themselves and possibly even save you money in the long term.
And by that, I mean taking into account the installation costs.
Although that does depend greatly on your usage level, the specific equipment you choose to install, and of course how much sun falls on your roof.
Because there’s not much point putting up a roof full of solar panels if you only get a few hours direct sunlight a day. Not if you’re on the main electricity grid.
So if you do live somewhere where sun hours are good, and the sun is strong, then now is the time to look again at the options available locally. Areas such as Australia and Western Europe have made great strides, but solar power in New Zealand is really taking off too now (according to Martin).
As the Solar Association of NZ says, it’s now a smart choice.
But just be clear on your reasons for wanting a solar installation in the first place. Because ‘being green’ isn’t necessarily the best reason. That’s because best solar production hours are obviously in the Summer – and not so much in the Winter. Which means you’re going to fall back on mains electricity in Winter which is the peak demand period for everyone. So we’re not going to be closing down any power stations unless Winter sun volumes are high enough too. That is possible, just not everywhere – but Auckland could well be one of those places.
The key is to use the right technology in the right place. So don’t automatically make the assumption that solar PV panels are the thing to get. It may be that in your local situation a direct solar hot water systems may make a lot more sense – as for most of us, hot water is one of the most significant portions of our electricity consumption.
And solar hot water need not be a full system either. It can just be a simpler pre-heat system which doesn’t rely on pumping and complex controllers. Simpler of course means cheaper to install, and cheaper to maintain. Circulating pumps do not last forever!
So talk to a few local installers, and any neighbours with systems too, before even committing yourself to the type of system you think you would like. But start out with an open mind, because you may find that what works best locally can be very different to what you imagined.
A footnote on efficiency. Don’t get too obsessed with efficiency ratings, particularly if you have lots of install space. Efficiency is just one of the factors to balance, particularly with cost. Yes, it’s great to have the most efficient panels possible, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend double the money on panels if you can simply install 1 extra less efficient panel to get the same output overall.