Solar power system, extra insulation to help reduce costs at Southland museum

Te Hikoi Museum and Information Centre operations manager Karyn Owen with a laptop showing details of power generated since the organisation switched on its solar power system on Friday. The museum and information centre are now using a mixture of electricity and solar power.

Robyn Edie/Stuff

Te Hikoi Museum and Information Centre operations manager Karyn Owen with a laptop showing details of power generated since the organisation switched on its solar power system on Friday. The museum and information centre are now using a mixture of electricity and solar power.

The Te Hikoi Museum and Information Centre in Riverton has started generating its own solar power in the first stage of major developments to the building.

The solar power was switching on Friday, and work on adding insulation and better use of space to increase shelving begins on Monday.

Te Hikoi Museum and Information Centre operations manager Karyn Owen said the museum section of the building would be closed on Monday and probably reopened in late September. However, other areas – the visitor information, retail shop and research service – would remain open.

The changes follow strategic planning and a feasibility study carried out in 2019 on ways to reduce costs and be more efficient.

READ MORE:
* Taranaki Master Builders Supreme House of the Year winner could be prototype for eco savings
* Wānaka solar power project a model for NZ in the future
* Sun shines on PM at Northland solar farm opening, but clouds remain over coal use
* Solar plant and wind farm help to keep South Taranaki and Hāwera ‘humming’
* Solar energy to help power Riverton’s Te Hikoi Museum and Information Centre

Financial support from community funders, combined with fundraising events and donations from individuals, have paid for the solar power project, $43,400; extra insulation, $10,000; and new shelving, $90,000.

Donations from the public totalled $18,000, Owen said.

A mixture of electricity and solar power is now used in the building, but Owen believes in the summer with longer daylight hours, it could be just solar.

“The excess we produce in the summer, that we’re not using, will be sold back to the grid,” she said.

A long term goal is to buy batteries to retain the solar power generated on site, she added.

The solar power system at the museum and information centre was designed and installed by World Solar NZ. Its company director, Doone Morrell, said a total of 54 solar panels were installed on the north-east and north-west of the building.

“Every panel is 375 watts (capacity to produce) and there’s 20 kilowatts in total.

“Over the summer I’m confident they won’t be paying much of a power bill.”

Changing the layout of storage and shelving space in the building starts this week.

“It’s going to increase our capacity to store things by 50 per cent,” Owen said.

“Over the next couple of months new shelving and more insulation is going in.”

Next year a goal was to have an improved heating and humidity controlled system throughout the museum, Owen said.

“In theory, we will be able to afford to operate that because the power bills will be lower because we’ll be generating some of our own power.”