Kiwi company struggling to find enough workers.

A solar company says it hopes to roll out 1000 units around the country over summer but is struggling to find enough workers to do the job.

Solar City founder and chief executive Andrew Booth said the company had 120 staff and was looking for the same number again to do work around the country.

Booth says that during the last three years, 3000 solar units had been installed on houses throughout the country and they feed storage batteries as part of the company's solarZero service.

The company likens it to a Netflix scheme where customers pay $85 a month for subscription and sign up for 20 years to take power off their houses.


SolarCity installs the rooftop panels, Panasonic battery, maintains the equipment and helps consumers to trade on energy markets.

As at the beginning of December the average levellised cost of energy (LCOE) of our solarZero service is 20.1 c/kWh while the national average for grid power is 29.03 c/kWh.

"Solar power and battery storage will put a natural cap on power prices in New Zealand," Booth says.

"These technologies will make the electricity system more efficient, resulting in cheaper electricity for everyone."

Booth says the falling price of solar hardware will turn the electricity market on its head.

With current technology, solarZero supplies the "majority" of a household's electricity needs.

As technology improves that proportion will increase. SolarCity estimates that over 20 years an average home powered by solarZero will save about $17,000 on electricity costs and stop about 15 tonnes of CO2 entering the atmosphere.

Booth co-founded SolarCity nine years ago and says while the technology has evolved quickly over that time the biggest challenge has been finding a funding model to make it affordable for consumers and viable for the company, whose shareholders include Sir Stephen Tindall and works with Westpac to provide funding.


Former Meridian chief executive Keith Turner was a founder and now works as an advisor to the company.

"We know that the technology is there from a capability perspective. The obstacle is how do you make it economic for ordinary families and communities so they don't have to put cash on their roof."

Even by selling electricity to households at up to 30 per cent below the average rate, the company could be profitable.

"The shareholders make money out of it, we're replacing an industry that has been tremendously profitable," says Booth.

Investors, including US energy investment firm Riverstone Holdings, had tipped "tens of millions" of dollars into the company.

Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment figures show solar generation in the past year grew 35 per cent on the previous 12 months but solar generates less than 1 per cent of the country's total electricity at present.

Transpower research shows that if there was widespread uptake of solar throughout the country with every home - not commercial buildings - having a 3kW array on the roof it could generate 75 per cent of total electricity on a sunny day in mid-summer.

Modelling shows that during a sunny mid-winter day it could be about 60 per cent, and over the year would meet about 20 per cent of total demand.

Booth estimates that there are 1.1 million homes in the country suitable for solar.

The company was setting up centres in Auckland and Christchurch - where there was a high level of interest - to train installers who are electricians.

The system has to be linked to power boxes in homes so expertise is necessary.

"We're at the stage where we're thinking about how to ramp that up really quickly," says Booth who once worked for Greenpeace in Britain.

"You only get one go at this - right now there's not enough people to install the gear."

Powered by the sun

● The first useful solar panel was invented 63 years ago by Bell Laboratories and had an efficiency of 6 per cent.
● Solar energy travels for 149,660,900km from the sun to the earth in eight minutes. It would take a commercial jet flying at 885kph 19 years to reach the sun.
● More solar energy strikes the surface of the earth in one hour than is provided by all the fossil energy consumed globally in a year.
● Spacecraft and space stations have used solar cells since the 1960s. The first solar satellite went to space in 1958 and is the size of a grapefruit. It's still up there. ● In 2016 the first around the world solar flight took place. With more than 17,000 solar cells on board, Solar Impulse 2 spent 23 days in flight over 16 months.