It’s OK, it is only ratepayers’ money

Neglected Solar array Credit: First Solar

Well done us. We have reached a tipping point (yes, another one!). This tipping point is a ‘major’ tipping point for solar energy in NZ and it is all at the ratepayers’ expense. Fab! Quote.

Timaru-based solar infrastructure firm Infratec has won the contract for an Auckland project involving the installation of 400 solar panels – a job being touted as a major tipping point for solar energy in New Zealand.

The major project for Auckland’s water infrastructure group Watercare also includes the installation of a utility-scale battery on a water reservoir near Redoubt Rd, in South Auckland, that supplies more than half of the city’s daily water needs.

“Previously, it hadn’t necessarily been commercially viable in New Zealand, because there haven’t been the incentives available. We’re hoping this will become a cornerstone project in the industry, which will encourage other firms to get onboard. I suspect Watercare have gone into this as a bit of an exploration of how these systems work.

End Quote.

If something needs incentives then, by definition, it is not commercially viable. It appears that Watercare are just having a bit of a play using the ratepayers’ money. Well that’s just peachy. Quote.

[…] Infratec chief executive Greg Visser said the system would help Watercare reduce operating costs, improve reliability and ensure business continuity during grid outages.

“The solar and battery system means Watercare can generate, store and share its own energy, demonstrating new ways of upgrading traditional assets and infrastructure,” Visser said.[…]

“The project reduces carbon emissions through generating power from an abundant solar resource, it provides Auckland rate payers with a resilient water treatment facility, so even if the grid electricity supply falls over, the plant keeps running.”

Visser said the project also allowed for ‘peak shaving’ meaning when the electricity price is high, Watercare would be able to run from the battery, and when power is cheap or the sun is shining, Watercare can recharge the battery.

“All this means lower operating costs and ultimately savings for ratepayers,” he said. End quote.


Any guesstimates on how far away “ultimately” is?

What happens if we have a prolonged period of calm weather and the ‘4.5 windfarms per year’ are not generating well? All in hand! The boffins at Watercare will sell their battery stored solar power to the grid to gain from the high spot prices. Brilliant. Until a situation arises when the battery is low on charge and some vehicle takes out the power pole feeding this site. Oops!

If the point of this is resilience for power outage situations, then buy a standby diesel generator. Much cheaper.

If the point of this is to share energy and earn some cash, then why? The payback period for the ratepayers could well be 10 – 15 years. Is this a wise use of ratepayers’ funds?

If the point of this is to play with the big boys and load balance the national power grid, then why? Is that what the ratepayers expect of their water supply authority?

If the point of this is to virtue signal, then top marks!

Full disclosure: WH has a non-battery backed 3kW solar array on his roof.