Monday, 17 February 2014

Greens turn to the Sun...

Yesterday, the Green Party of New Zealand announced it's solar energy policy, cheap loans attached to the property. The loans combined with solar energy production will see a $100 p.a. saving  on energy costs during the life of the loan, with much greater savings possible once the loan is fully recovered.

This policy is functionally equivilent to Germany's loan guarantee policy, allowing people to invest in roof top solar without the worry of being stuck with the loan if they move.

To date, the New Zealand roof top solar industry is worth about $41m. considering it has been the tiny Tim of energy generation in  this country for years. Previous high prices made such installation economically infeasible, since a typical install in c 2004 could cost $40k.  Now such an installation can be around $10k.  And prices continue to fall, as new technology brings cheaper more efficient cells in to the market.

Researches are busy looking for even cheaper options, graphene and Iron Pyrite are two lines of enquiry under active research at moment. Battery technology is coming along too.

Although solar offer more efficient delivery because it does not suffer the typical 30% transmission losses, the main issue with solar is that peek production, and peek consumption don't synchronize, so storage is needed. One option is to pump water below a hydro damn back into the hydo-lake, this is already being done overseas.

Roof top solar is typically generated close to where it is consumed, and reduces the draw on hydro electric sources. Pumps at the hydro dam can use the unused energy to return water to the hydro-lake in preparation for peek demand over the next 12 hours.

Increasingly, electricity will become a bigger part of transport in New Zealand's urban areas, more e-bikes, trolley  busses, light rail,  even the Tesla and its competitors. So the future of energy generation will demand more electricity, even if Te Whai Point goes belly up.

We could seriously shift our balance payments deficit, if we quit forking over NZ$8b every year to big carbon for fuel. As Russell Norman pointed out even halving this bill would seriously increase our ability to invest in development in New Zealand. To give you an idea how much money that is, even the Aussie banks are struggling to extract that amount of money from this country, and they mainline right into the cash system. It's better it seems to be a tape worm than a leach.

The policy is not without its critics, Minister for Mining and Resources, Climate Change Issues, Public Transport Tantrums, Simon Bridges has called the policy "magic money." An ad hominem that will surely play well in an audience that keeps slipping out of straight jackets, but is devoid of any substance.

Even though some point to panels having an energy conversion efficiency approaching 25% or 15% for older panels, and claim that's not efficient, keep in mind Germany's heavily industrialized powerhouse economy on some days gets more than half of it power from solar generation and has to export energy to it neighbours so as to not blow up their grid. Invercargil gets about same amount of sun as Germany, which makes a nonsense of claims by Wellingtonian residents that Wellington does not get enough sun to be effective. Previously the economics were in feasible but falling prices now mean grid parity is now here according to some companies.

Clearly there are misconceptions out there, which brings forth the question where did these misconceptions come from? Are they the random noise of an ill informed public, or has a special interest group been feeding them fact free propaganda in order to forestall the inevitable rise in competitive production technology?

See also
   Minister for Public Tantrums.
   Greens' Solar Homes policy launch.
   Pumped Storage Hydroelectricity

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