An Ōtaki man with a plan to harness power from the sun to provide electricity to Horowhenua households in the future is giving those homeowners a chance to invest in the scheme.
Phil Malpas will hold a consultation evening at Te Takere o Kura-hau-pō in Levin tonight to educate homeowners on what he sees as the future of community-owned solar electricity.
"There is no reason why New Zealand can't have one hundred per cent renewable power generation," he said.
Malpas was one of the founders of coastalenergy.nz (Ōtaki Energy Co-operative Ltd) and is pitching the plan to potential investors and homeowners. It involves leasing land to build solar plants, with shareholders getting cheaper power and dividend returns.
Each plant would be owned by a community co-operative with investors or households contributing $3000 each to fund the project, and he said they could expect between five and ten per cent return on their investment each year.
Investors would become shareholders in coastalenergy.nz and would get income from the company by selling power to the national grid and from retail sales.
"There's also the fact that it gives people a chance to own their own power company. It can reduce their power costs and make a positive contribution to reducing carbon emissions," he said. "It's the future.
"I can give you a cast-iron guarantee that it is going to happen. It's the only way."
It involved setting up solar energy power stations in the Horowhenua area with the capacity to power 500 households. Each station would produce an estimated three megawatts of power.
The energy sector was a complicated beast, but boiled down there was essentially a chain of supply starting with overseas-owned power stations that supplied lines companies, like Electra, that in turn sold that power to power supply companies which sent power bills, he said.
Power from the solar stations would be fed into the Electra grid that already supplied electricity in the Kāpiti-Horowhenua districts. He said Electra supported the proposal.
A key attraction of solar energy is its relationship to the environment. The panels are set up on ideally 5ha of land and produced zero waste. Animals could graze the grass underneath the panels, he said.
"That's the beauty of it. It can be mixed use so farm animals can also graze the land. Solar
energy also has no moving parts so is quiet," he said.
He said they already had blocks of land earmarked for lease that would be ideal as solar stations.
The solar plants were easy to manage and maintain and the key factor was that they had virtually no effect on the environment. As technology changed and improved, the plants could easily be upgraded.
Malpas said homeowners were installing solar panels on the roofs of their homes, but he said a collective approach was more affordable and cost effective.
"The plant would generate electricity from solar power far more efficiently and economically than is possible for individual households," he said.
Malpas said as electric vehicles would soon become commonplace - with a prediction as early as 2025 - it would see demand for electricity increase.
"That's when the bite will happen," he said. "We know how much power we use. We know that demand will increase. We can't build any more dams."
"By producing more power from renewable energy we can make a significant contribution towards reducing carbon emissions."
At present, 26 per cent of New Zealand's power generation was from fossil fuels, equating to 2000 million kg of carbon emissions, he said.
Technology meant the cost of producing and storing solar power was reducing all the time. There were already schools in the area using the technology and it worked.
Malpas said the Kāpiti-Horowhenua district was a perfect platform, with land available for solar stations. Lease agreements would provide landowners with income, he said.
"In the big cities there is no land, but there is a unique opportunity here," he said.
Malpas would be available for questions at the presentation at Te Takere o Kura-hau-pō tonight at 6pm.