Collector manufacturer Solar City New Zealand Ltd and system integrator Solar Technology Systems Ltd have merged to form one of New Zealand´s largest solar businesses.
The two companies based in the city of Nelson, which is located in the north of the Southern Island, signed the respective contracts at the end of May 2010 and will, together, have a permanent staff of 15. “We will work towards establishing sales offices all over the country,” Frank Witowski, founder of Solar Technology, singles out one of the major objectives of the new company named Solar City New Zealand. At the beginning, the company’s focus will be on solar thermal technology; solar photovoltaics will follow at a later time. The joint-venture will inherit the portfolio, including imported vacuum tube collectors from China, which was the core business of Solar Technology, and the evacuated flat plate collectors made in New Zealand which Solar City runs for 25 years in Christchurch.
The merger came at a time of substantial new investments, when Solar City also received 2 million New Zealand Dollars (NZD) from the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund K1W1 run by Stephen Tindall. As solar City stated in a press release in May 2010: “This capital will enable the company to expand nationally and invest further in innovation and product development to make solar more affordable to homeowners and businesses across New Zealand.”
Governmental support for the national solar water heating market has been available since November 2006, with the subsidy programme Energywise offering grants of NZD 1,000 for residential systems. Gerry Brownlee, New Zealand´s Minister of Energy and Resources, has just announced a follow-up programme starting in September 2010 with modified regulations. The timing between the two programmes could not be better: Individuals can still apply for grants according to the present scheme until 31 August 2010 (you will find more information about it in the database of incentive programmes).
What could turn out to be more difficult to predict in terms of results, is the new scheme’s reduction in grant limits and an extension of eligible technologies. “The grants for solar thermal systems will be between NZD 500 to NZD 1,000, depending on the system’s performance rating and whether it measures up to the very latest industry standards,” the minister announced. “And, grants will also be made available for heat pumps.”
System integrator Solar Technology Systems was owned and run by Frank and Roslyn Witowski. For the past 5 years, the couple worked together with its three employees in a joint-venture with a Chinese solar thermal system supplier. Recently, Solar Technology Systems has been tendering for several big projects around the world – for example, in India, Libya and the UAE – and offered products from and expertise in four different fields of technology: solar water heaters, photovoltaics, hydro power and wind turbines.
Solar City calls itself “New Zealand’s only all-in-one solar power company”, with services ranging from “design, product development and manufacturing to financing installation and monitoring”. Last year, the company launched Solartrak, a web-based solar monitoring service, which was implemented in 25 homes and businesses during a trial phase that ended in autumn of the same year. The second stage already includes 50 households in the cities of Nelson, Richmond and Stoke and makes use of a Solartrak system with an improved software that also integrates enhanced home energy management tools.