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Solar power within reach for Kiwis with free panels

Solar panels will become more common on homes in New Zealand as they are offered as a means to buy the energy they produce. 

solarcity, a solar energy firm announced a nationwide scheme where home owners can get solar panels installed on their roof for free, by buying the energy they produce. 

The launch of this new way to buy power means customers can now buy solar power just as they would conventional - except it will be coming off their own roof. Until now, one of the main barriers to solar power was the significant cost in having it installed. By eliminating that cost solarcity is hoping to see an increase in popularity for the renewable technology. 

Andrew Booth, solarcity founder and CEO said the solarZero scheme would "remove the whole upfront cost of solar, which in New Zealand is a huge barrier." 

"We know that 85 per cent of Kiwis want to go solar but the vast majority of them can't afford the $10,000 to put a solar system on their roof. With solarZero it's no longer an issue, because you don't have to pay anything upfront." 

Maintenance, insurance, installation and the design of the panels is also covered by solarcity, who is already New Zealand's largest solar provider for residential homes. 

Booth said the cost of power for those using the panels would be less than those buying conventional - but would only provide for daytime hours. For night-time use, customers would still have to buy off the grid. 

Booth said solarcity would examine the power needs of the household, cater the installation to meet that, and then set a fixed rate. "We can set a price for solar power generated from your roof at a rate below what's charged by your current power company and then fix this rate for 20 years," he said. 

The first homes in Canterbury had the free panels installed this week under the scheme. 

solarcity is aiming to fit out 5,000 New Zealand houses over the next two years, with the scheme available to anyone around the country to sign up. 

Booth said that if the customers did choose to sell their homes, they had the option of transferring ownership of the contract, or taking the panels with them to their next home. He said the panels could easily be removed from the roof without damage or displacement. 

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