The rapid growth of solar in New Zealand's commercial market has begun with economic viability proven and systems put to a myriad of uses throughout the country.
Until very recently, Yealands Wine Group had the largest solar array in New Zealand, providing their Marlborough estate with a stunning 99kWh of energy.
It is now second only to Palmerston North City Council's solar system, which manages 100kWh with an additional four panels.
Yealands now have plans to expand their array to 186kWh. Their actions may seem competitively motivated, but Yealands are interested in running an environmentally friendly and economical business.
"Our primary motivation for the installation was sustainability. It is very much what we are about as a company," said Michael Wentworth, marketing manager at Yealands.
"Self-sufficiency in power has always been a long term goal for us. We are still some way away from achieving this, but ultimately that is the key driver."
Solar currently offsets approximately 16 per cent of annual power consumption at the Yealands Estate. The current module count is 398 panels, making for a formidable system, both aesthetically and practically.
It will take approximately eight years to pay itself off. This is similar to the time in which the array will render itself carbon-neutral - no small feat, especially considering that even takes into account the initial manufacture of the system.
When the larger array is complete, it will provide 30 per cent of Yealands' Seaview Winery's needs.
A smaller but equally impressive solar array sits on the roof of a building in Freeman's Bay, Auckland, which accommodates the Ecostore retail shop and Lily & Louis PR.
The installation of 48 solar panels last year allowed the structure to become New Zealand's first ever net zero energy commercial building.
Malcolm Rands, founder and owner of Ecostore, says the Fairground Foundation (the not-for-profit arm of his business) pushed this project as part of its "mission creating a healthier, more sustainable world through on-the-ground action".
The array operates in conjunction with a lithium-ion battery pack, the likes of which can also be installed in solar-powered homes. With the addition of a smart control system, the battery pack allows energy drawn from the solar panels to be stored and used when it is needed, particularly during times of peak demand, or in the event of an unexpected power outage on the main grid.
To top it all off, the tenants in the building don't even have to change their behavior to achieve the net zero consumption of energy.
"We look upon this investment as a commercially viable long-term solution that costs no more than purchasing the same amount of power from the local grid," says joint landlord Jon Ramage.
South Auckland Forging Engineering Ltd (SAFE), located in Drury, is perhaps not the type of business you would generally expect to be making use of solar power.
However, they installed one of the largest solar arrays in New Zealand, in-line with their principles of sustainability and economic viability. The management of SAFE wondered how they could curb the ever-increasing bills for energy which they were drawing from the grid.
They considered changing to a different power provider, but found this would have reduced their energy costs by only two per cent. SAFE's sizeable operation includes a heavy forging plant, a heat treatment facility, a machine shop, and a metallurgy laboratory.
Despite the inherent high energy usage on-site, SAFE found after conducting research and obtaining quotes that the installation of solar panels would be a valid alternative to drawing all their power from the grid.
They now own a 68kW solar array made up of 360 photovoltaic panels, which accounts for over half of their energy usage on an annual basis. If at any time there is surplus energy, it can be fed back into the national grid and sold.
It is expected that the solar system at SAFE will pay for itself within nine years of its installation, as well as providing a significant return.
AAA Tough Plumbing and Drainage in Cromwell gives one more prime example of sustainable energy being embraced by business. Five tenants are located in one rural-industrial building, and when Andrew Tough realised solar panels covering the roof could gather up to 42kW of energy, he decided an installation was a worthy investment.
The system is now making a significant dent in power bills for the premises, and is on-track to pay itself back in 7.5 years. With power cost savings such as this already being enjoyed by many businesses around the country, more are set to follow.