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Council starts solar panel initiative

A new solar panel initiative aims to help more home owners take advantage of Marlborough's high sunshine hours.

The Marlborough District Council announced a tender last week towards helping struggling families power their homes.

Council chief financial officer Martin Fletcher said the solar panel scheme was the "next step of the technology evolution".

"It's a natural extension, especially with Marlborough's amount of sunshine hours," he said.

"It's a requirement because we want to protect ratepayers from cowboys, from people who might take advantage of them," Fletcher said.

Once a provider entered into an agreement with the council, the scheme would allow the council to cover the cost of solar panel installation through the accredited providers, who would liaise with homeowners.

Ratepayers would then pay back the council for the cost of the installation through a targeted rate over nine years, alongside an administration fee and a 5.5 per cent standard interest rate. 

Installation costs would depend on the type, amount and size of the solar panels that homeowners selected, Martin said.

"The repayment period is nine years because ... rates are only collected once a year," he said.

"If a person starts an application on July 1, 2019, they don't start paying back the installation on their rates until the following year, but they are charged interest."

Martin said the installation repayment was also spread over a nine-year period because it was a "mid point" and made for "an affordable rate".

While the council preferred ratepayers to be up to date with rates before applying to the scheme, it had accepted and helped people who weren't up to date in the past, he said.

Eligibility for the scheme was not limited by a ratepayers income or assets, Martin said. It was also open to both Marlborough homeowners and landlords. 

"All people living here are residents of Marlborough. We need people here to be healthy, but if they're cold or damp, it's proven they're more likely to be sick," he said.

"Now is a good time for people to start thinking about [installing solar panels], before our next winter. It takes just a few nights at -5 degrees Celsius before the demand goes up."

Once solar panels were installed, homeowners could opt to use the clean energy it provided, store it in batteries or supply it to the grid, he said.

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