Putting the sun’s power within reach

Gareth Williams catches up with Rose Davis from Forest and Bird to talk about the importance of solarZero in the fight against climate change.  
Climate change is a crisis Gareth Williams wants to shine some light on – sunlight to be exact.
He took up a role as technology chief at solarcity three years ago, because he believes solar power has a key part to play in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.
About 20 percent of New Zealand’s main electricity supply comes from carbon dioxide-producing thermal sources, gas and coal, while geothermal power plants also release carbon dioxide, says Gareth.
More than four billion kilograms of carbon dioxide are emitted from electricity in New Zealand each year.
“Our current means of providing electricity for New Zealand is not sustainable in the long term,” he says.
“I’m concerned about climate change because I’ve got children and grandchildren, so I feel a responsibility to make decisions today that create a sustainable planet for future generations.
“We have to find smarter ways to create electricity – and a rooftop solar power system is an obvious answer.”
solarcity makes it easy for people to access solar power. The Auckland-based company has set up a solarZero service that allows people to install solar panels and batteries with no installation cost.
solarcity maintains the solar power systems for a monthly fee of between $85 and $145, depending on the size of the household.
Most households get two thirds of their electricity from the solar system and batteries.
People can ensure their electricity use produces zero carbon dioxide emissions by getting power top ups from the grid through Ecotricity, a carboNZero certified electricity supplier.
On average, households using the service reduce their carbon dioxide emission by 15 tonnes, while saving about $18,000 on electricity over 20 years, says Gareth, whose own home has been on solar power for 13 years.
He hopes having more homes using solar people will help save New Zealand’s natural environment from the destruction caused by building new power plants.
“When more people use solar power, it means we can avoid having to build more power lines, having more power pylons scarring the countryside… it means no more valleys being flooded to build hydroelectric plants,” says Gareth.
The company offers the solarZero service to homes and businesses in major centres across most of the country. Solar panels can be installed on any roof that gets a reasonable amount of sunshine.
solarcity, which launched in 1999, is carbon neutral and has been carboNZero certified since 2010.
The Auckland office is solarZero powered and the company chooses environmentally friendly suppliers, tries to reduce the number of flights staff take by using online communication platforms, uses vegetable inks for printing, and provides trees for planting days.
It has donated $12,000 a year to Forest & Bird for the past three years and encourages its customers to donate to the society too, says solarcity marketing manager Liesel Rowe.
“We want to look after New Zealand for future generations and the work Forest & Bird is doing is really in line with that,” she says.