Business Profiles

Sun shines on solar uptake for businesses and households

More households and businesses are capturing the rays from the sun as a way to reduce electricity costs and ensure continuity of power during a short or extended outage. Freeenergy Solar Solutions owner Aaron Duncan says todays customers are more educated on the benefits of solar than when he became one of the first dedicated solar energy providers in Hawke’s Bay in 2007.

He had recently returned from his OE and had seen the emergence of solar energy in Europe. Aaron says solar was pretty expensive in the early days and was more appealing for the environmentally minded, rather than those looking for cheaper electricity.

He says this has certainly changed over the last five years, with a return on investment being between around 6-8 years. Battery storage technology is also now more affordable and due to Cyclone Gabrielle cutting power to thousands of homes and businesses, being resilient is top of mind. “It was expensive very early on. For example a three kilowatt system back then would cost about $20000 and today it’s about $2000 a kW and the technology has advanced significantly.”

Today solar panels are very affordable, battery storage is now also affordable and both mainstream banks and the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council offer financing, based on the environmental benefits of solar.

“Only five years ago when we would get people coming to home shows asking ‘what’s this?’ whereas today many people understand the benefits and know someone that uses solar energy.” Residential solar installs in New Zealand are at 3 percent with overall generation less than 1% of total energy in NZ. Australia’s install rate is over 30% with 32% of Australia’s total electricity generation was from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydro.

The last three years has seen strong growth for solar in Hawke’s Bay due to COVID19 and last year’s devastating cyclone.

“During Covid household power consumption increased as we all worked from home, and this saw people look for cheaper electricity options while the cyclone cut power to over 60,000 homes. Aaron says houses and businesses with battery storage had continuity of electricity while those with only solar panels were cut off, just like other electricity line users. “It was a bit of a wake call for everyone and we have had a lot of solar customers since upgrade to battery storage.”

The commercial sector has a greater appetite for solar, as it also ticks their carbon footprint box as well as reducing overheads. Recent large commercial installs include Central Hawke’s
Bay electricity lines business Centralines, land consultancy business Development Nous, Ramage Sheetmetals, Flaxmere College while a recent community project was a resilience solution for the Maraekakaho Community, with a solar and battery install on their hall to act as a civil defence centre in an extended power outage.

“We are seeing an increase in commercial and industrial solar systems as power prices continue to rise and business become more conscious of their carbon emissions.

“We now offer commercial financial packages and power purchase agreements, where a system can be installed for no up front cost and is cashflow positive from day one.”

Ramage Sheetmetals in Napier was a relative early adopter for commercial solar in HB.

We installed 112 panels in 2017 and the system paid for itself in less then 5 years and is now earning them a significantly lower energy bill as utility rates continue to rise.

“The technical design, performance modelling, installation and after sales service have been excellent and we are exceeding our calculated Return on Investment of 5 years. As a significant user of electricity during the daytime it makes financial and environmental sense. Our only complaint is we have no more roof to add more panels,” says general manager Daniel Lincoln. Freenergy provides your full service with in house, sales, design, installation, tech support & after sales service.

With multiple national Solar Industry Awards, we are a local business you can trust. Residential Solar offers a return on investment of over 10% while Commercial is often over 20%.