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Christchurch joinery company Misco invests in Canterbury's largest solar system

Canterbury's largest solar system has been installed at Misco joinery's new factory in Kaiapoi, north Christchurch, amidst increasing interest from businesses in this form of renewable energy.

The solar system has 535 panels, covers most ot the roof of Misco's new buildings, and could power 27 homes.

It has the capacity of 153 kilowatts and its output is about 210,000 kilowatt hours a year, about two-thirds of the electricity Misco needs.

Solar powered energy systems have been under scrutiny as well as in the limelight recently.

However, Nelson's celebrated 'Chia' sisters, who have made it to the Top 30 Under 30 list of prestigious business magazine, Forbes, are champions of sustainability including installing solar power.

Misco's supplier, Sky Solar director of commercial projects Cameron King, said often households were away during the day when most of the solar power was generated.

"Whereas businesses are the opposite. They have very good utilisation rate on solar power because they are using it when the system is generating it."

Sizing the system was important because if it was too big a lot more electricity went back into the grid for a payment of about 8c a kilowatt hour.

Sky Solar not only supplied the panels but helped companies get good power deals from electricity retailers for the power they needed not supplied by the solar system. Power bought for evening use was cheaper than daytime power.

King said there had been a substantial lift in interest in solar power recently from businesses and schools.

The uptake this year was significantly higher than it had been in the past.

"I think people are actually starting to trust the technology."

"Anyone who's been to Asia or Europe in recent times can see it's pretty mainstream. And I think that gives a lot of reassurance around the fact the technology is viable."

The cost of Misco's system was $370,000 and it would have a 16.1 per cent return in power savings. That meant the payback period was about six years.

It leased the system and would own it in seven years. Misco had also incorporated other energy saving features like double-glazing, high-spec insulation and LED lights.

King said companies listed on the New Zealand sharemarket were required to have a sustainability policy and lift their performance on this every year.

So solar power fitted into those policies and that was helping to drive more solar uptake.

The largest solar system to date in New Zealand was the just over 1300 panels system at the Yealands Winery in Blenheim. A couple of others were larger at 200kW than Misco's 153kW, he said.

Sustainable Energy Association NZ chair Brendan Winitana said: "We are seeing increasing interest in medium to large commercial systems because it makes sense on many levels, it makes sense financially, it provides differentiation, and a competitive advantage in overseas and local markets and allows companies to do their bit to combat climate change." 

Other projects included included a 300kW system for honey company Comvita, 61kW for the Zespri headquarters, a couple of systems for the Mainfreight distribution centres, and several big systems over 1 Megawatt, as well as numerous 30kW to 100kW systems for dairy farms, warehouses, resorts, supermarkets, schools and petrol stations.

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