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Oh solar me-o: NIWA gives something to sing about!

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NIWA Media Release 5 December 2009

Oh solar me-o: NIWA gives you something to sing about!

Solarview, a free web-based tool from NIWA, helps you get the most out of your house.

NIWA have designed and built a do-it-yourself tool that tells you how much sunlight your home receives at different times of the year. This helps you work out whether solar power is a viable option for your energy needs.

All you need to tell the web-based tool is your address, which direction your roof faces, and what the angle of your roof is. The software already knows the terrain around your home and factors any hills and valleys into the data.

NIWA's system uses Google Maps to find your latitude and longitude based on the address of your home. It combines this with topographical data and many years of climate data from the climate stations throughout New Zealand to give a month-by-month calculation of how much available solar energy will hit your roof throughout the year.

This bright idea was created by NIWA scientist Ben Liley. He sees that for people to make solar power work for them, they need good information that is specific to their situation.

A homeowner, or their solar energy specialist, can use this information to determine what savings installation of solar panels or solar water heating would be likely to give. The tool can also help determine which part of a roof is best for solar energy given the unique surroundings and situation of the home.

NIWA’s new tool could assist Nelson residents with the Solar Saver scheme and anyone in a sunny spot in New Zealand.

On average, New Zealand receives about 2000 hours of bright sunshine each year. In energy terms, New Zealand's solar energy resource is about four kilowatt hours per square metre, per day. To put that into perspective, if every New Zealand home had a three kilowatt solar panel array, they would collectively generate enough power in a year to satisfy over a quarter of New Zealand's annual residential electricity needs.

Solar radiation is an abundant energy source which is free, non-polluting, and renewable. In New Zealand, many homes are exposed to 20 to 30 times more energy from the sun annually than they use in electricity or gas, but this energy source isn’t often made use of. A well designed and installed solar water heating system will heat 50 -75% of your hot water every year.


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