Farming solar energy is not a new idea for PNCC, which has been harvesting solar energy for a couple of years, however this will be the Council's largest venture and at the time of construction is the largest solar farm in the country.
Palmerston North is committed to being a sustainable city and has numerous projects focused on achieving this aim including an LED street light trial and free tertiary student bus travel.
The project cost $215,350 and saw the installation of 400 photovoltaic solar panels across two of the Council owned central city buildings. The panels work by converting sunlight into electricity. As the sunlight hits the silicon cells in the panels, an electric current is generated. The electricity generated by the solar panels is a direct current (DC) voltage and each panel has a positive and negative lead. The panels are all wired together and connected to an inverter which turns the electricity into alternating current (AC) which we use in the building.
The Council's Administration Building uses approximately 1,100,000kWh of electricity per year with the farm expected to generate approximately 118,000kWh over the next 12 months. Last year the electricity costs at the Administration Building were $173,000. There should also be a reduction in electricity demand charges as Council will be using less electricity from the network during times of peak demand.
In 2013 PNCC converted several of the Council owned buildings including its administration building, City Library, Ladies Rest public toilets in The Square and the works depot building in Fitzherbert Park to solar heated hot water. This conversion resulted in significant energy savings and, as we displaced gas, there was a direct saving in CO2 emissions as well.
In 2012 PNCC installed 26 photovoltaic panels on the roof of its new works depot building at Fitzherbert Park. The building was the first of the Council's to be fitted with the panels. With energy efficient lighting and power systems in place, the power generated from the 26 panels now equals the amount of power the building is using making it a 'zero energy' facility.