North Canterbury Businesses Invest in Solar Energy21st November 2022
The installation was one of the largest ever undertaken by Christchurch-based Fresh Start Electrical and was completed in September.
Rangiora Bakery owner Ron van Til said he is always looking for opportunities to improve the environmental footprint of his 160-year-old business and, following the installation of e-bike chargers at the bakery entrance last year, solar panels were the next logical step.
“The installation of our free e-bike chargers increased our power usage, so we thought ‘how can we offset that cost?’. Solar energy was the obvious answer.
“The solar panels are providing us with 25% of our energy needs currently and this will rise as we approach summer. We are also partnering with MainPower and our remaining 75% is being sourced from the Kakariki Power Scheme which involves a small hydro dam near Mt Hutt. So, we are effectively now using 100% renewable energy sources.”
Whilst the initial solar panel outlay was approximately half a million dollars, Mr van Til says that the company expects the return on investment to take only six years, compared to the average household payback of 12-14 years.
“It is a large initial outlay, but a six-year payback is a good return. The panels also come with a 25 year guarantee and after those 25 years it’s expected that the panels will lose only around 15% of their efficacy. This is a good wearing asset.”
As suppliers to several multinational companies, Rangiora Bakery is required to be an environmentally responsible organisation, and is audited annually on this basis. Through that audit, to date, the business has been earmarked as one of the leading companies taking action on climate positive initiatives.
“Lots of businesses talk about going green but we choose to actually take the steps required to implement these initiatives. Whilst we are required to investigate these opportunities as part of our multinational contracts, there is also a level of social responsibility here which we take seriously.”
Mr van Til said other businesses considering the shift to solar energy should definitely consider it. “MainPower was fantastic to work with and they are keen to do more solar installations in North Canterbury. In addition, there are local North Canterbury businesses providing solar installation, so you can support local all the way.”
Mr van Til said that whilst there were no Government subsidies that he was aware of to help businesses with the investment, some installation companies will offer a lease and buy-back type of set-up, easing the initial cost outlay.
Rangiora Bakery isn’t the first large-scale business in Waimakariri to invest in solar power. Misco Joinery installed 535 panels on its factory roof in Kaiapoi in 2019. At the time, it was the largest solar energy system in Canterbury. The system provides up to 70% of the energy requirements for Misco Joinery’s showroom and workshop, which is the largest automated plant in the South Island.
Misco Joinery’s Penny Abell says the installation has proven valuable to the business.
“In our showroom we have screens that show how many trees we have saved and our reduced carbon emissions through the use of solar energy. This is a great talking point with clients, but also shows us the impact we are having.”
Penny says the next climate-friendly addition to the business will be an EV charging point which will run on the solar energy generated by the panels. In addition, Misco Joinery is in the process of gaining its Toitu Enviromark Certification; an accreditation which requires ongoing efforts and audits to reach and maintain a credible environmental management system.
“For any business thinking about investing in solar energy, we would say go for it! It has many benefits.”