Solar Power 101: Everything you need to know about solar power with Dean from Wanaka Solar - Bike Glendhu
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Solar Power 101: Everything you need to know about solar power with Dean from Wanaka Solar

Wanaka Solar has been a key partner for Bike Glendhu since they set us up an off-grid solar system and help us with our mission to be an enviro-friendly bike park. We thought we would have a chat with Dean to share a bit of info on solar and what it takes to set up solar here in Wanaka. 

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How long has solar been around? How has the tech developed since it was first about?

The use of solar cells was first patented in the 1880s but wasn’t used for much more than outdoor sensor lights for many years. In the 1960s, solar panels were installed on spacecraft to use the sun’s energy to power satellites where no other power source was available. It wasn’t until the 2000s that solar energy become financially viable for home use when countries like China improved production so the price could come down. Today, solar is the 2nd cheapest way to generate power after large scale wind farms (which are expensive to set up and can only be done in certain places). Solar is the most versatile option today as you can install them anywhere that gets sunlight.

How easy is it to convert to solar?

Very simple. Expect a 6week turnaround from when you first get someone to view your property for installation to heating your house from the power of the sun. Depending on what you want out of your solar system, it can be installed with or without batteries to work alongside your on-grid power. 

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What maintenance is required on a solar system?

Almost none, checking them over every 5 years is recommended but in a place like Wanaka we have great conditions for solar and they shouldn’t need any maintenance and very little cleaning unless set up where leaves can fall on them. 

If a component in the system were to break, the solar company is notified automatically and will come and repair it right away.

You did the installation of 66 panels Bike Glendhu to create an off-grid solar-powered bike park, can you briefly explain how our off-grid system works? 

An off-grid set-up like Bike Glendhu is set up with a battery inverter. Power generated from the panels is sent directly to everything using power, then excess power generated is fed to batteries to store for when the panels are not generating power at night. There is also a backup generator installed so if the batteries drop below a pre-set level, the generator powers on until they get back up above 50% or so, then the solar panels will continue to do the work. This way there is always power available.

Bike Glendhu saves nearly 3 tonnes of carbon emissions per year by using solar, the equivalent of planting 190 trees. How much would the average household save on carbon emissions each year? 

There is no exact answer here as it comes down to what type of system you are using. 

In NZ, we run mostly off hydro power, and then have peaker plants that burn fuel to generate power in peak times when hydro isn’t providing enough to power the country. With more solar installation in the country, excess power generated and put back into the grid would negate the need for these fuel burning peaker plants.

How much do you save on energy bills? 

1-4k per year, this will vary depending on how much you are consuming vs how much sunlight you get. Also, if you chose to use a battery or not.

Without a battery excess power is being sold back to the grid, but at a lower rate than what you buy it back for. To maximise your return on investment a system should be installed that generates enough power, without providing more than you are using.

Also, solar will heat your hot water cylinder during the day which reduces your electricity or gas costs a lot, especially with climbing prices.

How long will it take for solar to pay off the investment?

Average 7 years 

What advice would you have for someone looking to explore solar options for their home or business? 

It’s important to have a system designed specifically for you as everyone’s needs differ depending on how and when you are using power. How efficient your system is will maximise your return on investment. It’s also very important to use quality products as there is varying quality equipment on the market. Cheaply made panels and parts are where solar can gain a bad rep.

Solar power can work for anyone no matter how big or small, at Bike Glendhu we even run a commercial kitchen off solar.

What sets Wanaka Solar apart from other solar and power companies?

Wanaka Solar will go through the whole journey with you and design a system suited to your needs to ensure you get maximum value out of your system. They don’t subcontract out the installation and will service their customers for life. Wanaka solar also makes sure they use only the best products to ensure a reliable system that will generate the highest power output.

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