In a recent Christchurch Press article, ‘Biggest solar-energy community planned’, it seems that the increase in performance of solar energy panel technology, coupled with the dramatic decrease in the price for solar, means that renewable solar energy will help to play a key role in the earthquake re-build of Christchurch*.
The Press. 03/02/2012:
All 2,200 homes in Christchurch’s proposed Highfield subdivision will be fitted with solar-energy systems, making it New Zealand’s biggest solar community.
The systems, consisting of both photovoltaic and hot-water panels, would supply about a quarter of a typical home’s energy needs, developer Maxim Projects says.
Maxim has signed a deal with power company Meridian Energy, Japanese manufacturer Panasonic and South Island solar-power company SolarCity to install the systems.
It applied for resource consent from Christchurch City Council to build the fast-tracked subdivision last September.
The 180-hectare site – between Redwood, Mairehau, Belfast and Marshland – is bigger than Hagley Park and was identified by Environment Canterbury as suitable for housing in 2009.
SolarCity chief executive Andrew Booth said residents would see “massive benefits” from the solar systems and would be able to sell excess power back to the national grid. With optional batteries, the systems could continue running during a power cut, he said.
The thin photovoltaic panels each generate 235 watts and weigh 15 kilograms, and each roof would have at least four.
They will be made in Japan by Panasonic, and the frames and solar water panels will be made by SolarCity, which is based in Nelson and has a manufacturing plant in Christchurch.
EnaSolar, a Christchurch business owned by Christchurch company Enatel*, will manufacture the solar inverters for the project.
Booth said the work would create “green jobs” in the city.
Panasonic New Zealand managing director Stewart Fowler said photovoltaic technology was improving fast, and panel prices had dropped 40 per cent in the past year.
All residents in the subdivision would initially be customers of Meridian, which has undertaken to buy solar-generated power fed back into the grid, but Maxim director Roy Hamilton said people could opt out of this arrangement later.
Hamilton said his company was “leading the way” by building New Zealand’s first solar subdivision and wanted to install solar systems in all 3500 houses it has planned in Canterbury.
Highfield will sell home and land packages only, not bare sections, with homes ranging from apartments to million-dollar houses. Its design includes reserves and two shopping precincts.
Hamilton said the first homes could be completed by Christmas if consent processes went smoothly.
The company has a contract to buy the land, known as the Mills Hills block, from about 15 landowners.
* For those readers who aren’t fully in the know, Christchurch City and the wider Canterbury suffered 2 devastating earthquakes in September 2010 and February 2011. A series of major aftershocks – now much diminished but still ongoing – have added to the devastation.
Many homes and businesses were destroyed or fatally undermined in the quakes and entire neighbourhoods have been earmarked for re-build or re-location and much Christchurch’s Central Business District remains out of bounds.