solarcity New Zealand: a carboNZero case study

solarcity New Zealand logo

solarcity is New Zealand's leading solar power company. It is in business for a purpose: to help create a cleaner, greener world, a sustainable future and to help New Zealand become powered 100% on renewable energy. This ranges from inspiring community action to how it runs its own operations.

solarcity installation on Waiheke Library

solarcity installation on Waiheke Library.

solarcity has put more solar installations on New Zealand homes and businesses than any other company. Services include design, installation and monitoring.

  • 6,000+ Solar installations
  • 9,079,148 Estimated kWh generated
  • $2,496,766 Estimated annual customer savings

Sustainable purpose and passion

solarcity is in business with a vision to bring solar to homes throughout New Zealand. solarcity and its staff strive for the highest social and environmental goals and, in doing so, aim to influence all those they meet and work with throughout their business activities. Despite these long standing values of sustainability, solarcity felt that there was more to be done as an organisation. In 2011, it achieved carboNZero certification. This provided a third party quantifiable framework that solarcity applies with a continuous improvement approach to its business practices. solarcity is always searching for new ways to reduce its carbon footprint, protect the environment and inspire others to do the same.

solarcity’s core business is based on the environment. It promotes products and services that help customers reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enjoy renewable, independent electricity. Unlike many products that only carry a one-year guarantee, solarcity’s solarZero plan offers a 20-year product and production guarantee. The energy used to produce a panel is more than recouped during its life. It takes one to two years to generate the same amount of energy required for a panel’s production so, over its 20-year lifetime, a panel will pay back the energy debt at least 10 times over. The panels are made predominantly from silicon dioxide (sand) and contain no toxic materials like mercury, lead or cadmium. And while the panels need to be transported to the installation sites, all emissions resulting from that transport are offset under its carboNZero certification. To reduce impacts as much as possible, solarcity groups installations by proximity whenever it can. All of this results in a business that is committed to long term sustainability.

It isn’t surprising that the staff of a solar power company are passionate about the environment. solarcity is largely a paperless organisation. They correspond electronically wherever possible and use 100% recycled and carbon neutral paper, if they need to print. Staff are encouraged to use Skype and other telecommuting options rather than travelling between solarcity’s three offices. When travel is unavoidable the flights are fully offset. The company has a fleet of low-emission and efficient vehicles and encourages carpooling, especially for company events. And any products the company purchases, from t-shirts to inverters, are from ethically and environmentally preferred suppliers. As a carboNZero certified organisation, solarcity can take advantage of the member network offered by the programme giving it access to other environmentally conscious businesses.

However, it isn’t just company goals that staff are helping to meet – most staff have a personal mission to look after the environment, from the use of keep cups and the worm farms in the office, to recycling and of course, solar on their own homes. And there is always a race in the office to find the latest environmental story online. Passionate staff make solarcity’s mission of continual improvement a smooth and dynamic one, helping solarcity put the environment first.

solarcity installing solar panelssolarcity solar panelssolarcity installation on Waiheke Library

solarcity Solar installations in Auckland, Christchurch and Waiheke Island

Using solar for social good

solarcity sets out to do business with a social conscience and to be innovative in using solar for social good. This means that solarcity is involved in a range of projects that encourage the preservation of the environment. This includes large projects in Rarotonga, Nauru and Tuvalu to reduce the Pacific Islands’ dependence on imported fossil fuels, used to generate power, while also reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

solarcity recently completed a project in Tuvalu installing solar power onto Government buildings located on the island of Funafuti, one of which also happens to be the largest building on the island. This solar installation includes 648 panels with a combined capacity of 170 kW. The clean, renewable energy they generate will provide 5% of the island’s electricity. In turn, this will cut diesel imports by 62,000 litres annually and save the nation about $2 million over the lifetime of the system. It will also save more than 185 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

Another recent Pacific Island installation is a 960 kW solar farm at the Rarotonga airport. Rarotonga has a goal to achieve 100% renewable energy, and this farm plays a key role. It means that Rarotonga can reduce imported fossil fuels, eliminating about 370,000 litres of diesel, which will save Rarotonga $529,100 annually.

solarcity Solar Farm at Rarotonga Airportsolarcity Solar Farm at Rarotonga Airportsolarcity Solar Farm at Rarotonga Airport

Solar farm installation, Rarotonga Airport

Innovation and inspiration

Closer to home, solarcity is on a mission to get New Zealand powered 100% on renewable energy by 2025. The current Government goal is 90% but solarcity is pushing for that last 10%, which will bring New Zealand in line with the eight nations and various cities already committed to the 100% goal. To help more homes, businesses and communities switch to solar, solarcity has developed innovative ways to get solar power. In turn, this is helping to reduce dependence on the grid and eliminate the need for fossil fuel generated power to top up electricity generated by hydro and geothermal power.

While solarcity still offers the option for customers to buy their own solar system, they have a new offering that is really helping increase the uptake of solar. A solarZero plan gives homeowners the option of purchasing solar power from their own rooftop without the cost of buying a solar system. Consumers pay a fixed monthly fee for solar while solarcity owns the panels and covers the cost for installation, maintenance and insurance. It is designed to let homeowners generate cleaner, more affordable power by going solar and allows consumers to lock in the price for their daytime power needs.

solarZero customers may be eligible to participate in a research project that solarcity has launched in partnership with the University of Otago and Victoria University of Wellington. The groundbreaking solarLab initiative will be studying solar energy by installing and monitoring 120 household solar systems and five commercial systems. The study will explore how solar energy can help support underprivileged communities and help homeowners improve their energy consumption through awareness, education, mentoring and insights from real time data.

solarcity Solar Panel

Better future, better business

Whether you look at its office activities, the markets it serves, or the product and services it sells, solarcity is committed to a better environment. solarcity has also found that environmental performance can mean business excellence. As solarcity works to help others switch to solar and inspire a cleaner, greener future, it is also seeing business advantages with its sustainable practices.

solarcity’s culture of continual improvement helped make the certification cycle easier. Because solarcity is a nationwide business, the sheer volume of data to collate for its annual carbon inventory had been daunting and challenging. Over the past five years of certification, the company has honed its recording processes with custom templates to suit its needs. The templates are updated daily, weekly and monthly to ensure accurate input of information and to help identify any issues at the time of input. solarcity has found this to be a big time saver and it makes the annual reporting much easier.

solarcity is the only solar energy company to have gained carboNZero certification in New Zealand and the company has found it provides a real marketing advantage with both customers and suppliers. This point of difference sets solarcity apart as a company for good – not only does it offer environmentally responsible products and services but the staff are continually working to improve the company’s environmental impacts and that really builds trust with solarcity’s partners. solarcity is not just a company that talks about the environment, it can show it is genuinely committed to the environment in everything it does.

Though it currently enjoys that market advantage, solarcity still wants other businesses to achieve carboNZero certification. solarcity believes that it is important for businesses to measure and improve their environmental impacts, especially as New Zealand prides itself on being clean and green. solarcity recommends the carboNZero programme because the framework of the programme ensures that organisations apply the initiatives across all business practices and requires ongoing improvement. If your household or business is ready to join solarcity in its inspiring mission for a sustainable future, get in touch using the contact details below.

For further information

solarcity New Zealand
T: 0800 11 66 55

carboNZero LogocarboNZero Certified organisations

This certification is awarded to companies that are measuring, reducing and offsetting their carbon footprint.

To achieve carboNZero certification, an organisation must measure their organisation’s full greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (also known as a carbon footprint) so they understand what their impact is on the global climate. They measure all operational emissions required under the international standard for carbon footprints, ISO 14064, including vehicles, business travel, fuel and electricity, paper, and waste. The emissions are measured annually and the inventory is independently verified to ensure it is accurate and complete.  Once they have measured their footprint, the organisation must develop plans to manage and reduce their emissions continually. Each year, the organisation then offsets any remaining emissions through the purchase of verified carbon credits to achieve net zero emissions. As part of achieving carboNZero certification, the organisation needs to achieve emissions reductions on a five year cycle.