Clean technology: Fresh data has shown that solar installations in New Zealand have increased by 370% in just two years.
Research by the Sustainable Electricity Association of New Zealand (SEANZ) has revealed that the solar energy sector is currently worth around $40 million in New Zealand.
Brendan Winitana, Chairman of SEANZ, is excited at the prospects: "Revenue is growing at a rate of 100%, and exports are currently 25% of total revenues. We are seeing strong enquiry from consumers, and have attracted more installers to the sector. SEANZ membership has grown by more than 50% in the past six months, reflecting the increased installation capacity nationwide.
"The industry is poised for growth. Two key factors are driving it. The first is price. It has never been cheaper to install solar systems and harvest the energy of the sun. The equivalent of 50 solar installations are taking place each month.
"SEANZ's bi-annual survey shows that the majority (77%) of solar generating capacity is on-grid, enabling the home or business owner to sell any surplus energy back to the grid."
Winitana says that solar is an increasingly attractive option; "The systems start to generate profit in as little as seven years, and with solar systems usually lasting around 25 years or more, that's 18 years of profits to look forward to."
He believes improvements in battery storage is the next innovation required for solar power systems to go mainstream and become ubiquitous. "Battery innovation will make a tremendous difference to overall load on the grid.
"It will reduce consumers' cost of electricity as they access stored energy that their home systems have generated and will also further support the uptake of electric vehicles."
The financial case for installing a solar power system is compelling, says Roy Maddox of solar power specialists SolarKing. Its solar system sales have grown over 100% in the last 6 months and SolarKing are now installing on average one residential system a day. With an average return on investment of 12% many homeowners are seeing this investment as better than other traditional options.
The motivating factors for most clients, reports Maddox, are a combination of reducing the energy cost of the home and gaining some control and protection from escalating power prices. The feel-good factor of becoming a renewable energy user and helping the planet is a bonus.
Meanwhile, wind power continues to rise
Last year globally 44,000 MW of new wind generation was installed - five times New Zealand's entire electricity system. The investment in new wind generation in 2012 amounted to around US$90 billion.
In 2000, the International Energy Agency predicted 35GW of wind by 2010. In fact, wind generation reached 200GW in 2010. Also in 2000 the World Bank predicted China would have 6GW of wind in 2020. China reached ten times that amount - 60GW of wind - in 2011.
Wind now currently provides 2.6% of global electricity production - the equivalent of providing the world's electricity for eight days - and will provide roughly 7.4% a decade from now or far more, based on the previous under-predictions.
Many regional markets are experiencing much higher percentages:
Wind provides roughly 30% of generation capacity in Denmark.
Wind provides over 45% of generation capacity in four major German states and around 11% nationally.
Wind generation capacity in some provinces in Spain reaches close to 100%.
In South Australia wind has provided more than 46% of total generation.