Light shone on subsidies

Energy business: Queenstowner Julian Fuchs, right, with Thermo Solar boss Zane Wilson Young

A new Queenstown business will lobby City Hall to introduce incentives encouraging ratepayers to go green.

Julian Fuchs, area manager for Thermo Solar, got on board with Christchurch-based boss Zane Wilson Young after spotting a job ad.

Wilson Young has been operating the solar hot water heating system for 15 months, importing the technology from Britain. The Queenstown arm launched last week.

The pair reckon local government isn’t doing enough to promote energy efficient technology – something they want to change.

Fuchs, an Arthurs Point sparky, has talked solar policy with other bodies, including Nelson and Marlborough councils. He plans to make a proposal to Queenstown’s council.

“As I understand it, the local council doesn’t have any subsidies or incentives for new home builders to incorporate energy efficiency in their builds or installations – and that is definitely something the population in Queenstown could and should benefit from.”

Council planning boss Tony Avery says it’s generally supportive of sustainable construction methods, building initiatives and clean technologies that comply.

But he bats away the idea of subsidies, saying the council doesn’t provide incentives on any product.

“There is a wide array of such products and ultimately it is up to the homeowner to determine what they need and want.”

Wilson Young says its technology isn’t a traditional solar system.

It doesn’t need sun to operate and will work at night – even in snow. Fuchs says the system’s perfect for areas like Fernhill or parts of Queenstown Hill which don’t get huge amounts of sunlight.

“It basically works similar to a heat pump, in that a refrigerant is used to absorb temperature from the air.

“However this system also incorporates a solar panel which utilises direct sunlight when available.

“But then at night or whenever the sun isn’t available, the system continues to work by absorbing [air] temperature, down to -10 degrees.”

Thermo Solar usually costs $12,000 to install but, by piggy-backing on a UK export subsidy, Kiwis can save $5000.

Those who qualify get savings through British company The Thermo-dynamic Box, which developed the technology.