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The Roost: A solar, self-sufficiency success story

Self-generated solar power doesn’t just make business sense because it saves money – it’s also a great way to attract attention.

That’s the opinion of Graeme and Linda Newall, hosts of The Roost executive bed and breakfast in the picturesque outskirts of Waiuku township. They initially decided to install a solar system because it fit their business philosophy of being “self-sufficient in suburbia” – a philosophy they’d already backed up by developing orchards, bees, chickens and veggie gardens.

Now, having installed a top-of-the-range 25-panel array of 335kW LG solar panels and Tesla Powerwall battery storage, not only have they spent their first month not having to draw any electricity from the grid but they’ve also piqued the interest of their neighbours. So much, that they’re holding open days to show off their new purchases.

Linda says they initially looked at solar power some years back but thought price was an issue and there was little choice available for battery storage. But now their business was soaring (The Roost advertises five available suites on their website, two of which are two-bedroom) they realised their energy costs were much higher than they had expected and solar was going to make a real impact on their business costs.

They contacted Harrisons Solar and organised a visit from Auckland region solar expert Nerum Bonesetter. After explaining how they drew power from their rooms year-round, 24-7, because of appliances such as kettles, fridges and microwaves, as well as lighting and air con, they decided to install a big system with enough battery storage to get them through the nights using power they’d generated during the day.

The Roost also needed a system that would be able to serve a growing business with two new accommodation blocks – a Honeymoon House and Cottage Cabin – also coming online this summer.

“Solar really fits in with what we’re trying to achieve here at The Roost,” Linda says. “And I believe we’ve got a top-of-the-line system, which is important because we want it to be an investment for a lifetime. We have been pleasantly surprised that since day one of it being switched on we haven’t pulled any power from the grid – we expected an impact and it’s managed to achieve that impact immediately.”

The whole process from initial contact with Harrisons Solar to installation, took less than two months and installation was specially organised over two days when guests weren’t booked and there to avoid downtime and disruption.

Linda and Graeme say the success of the whole experience has already led them to investigate more ways to save energy consumption in the business.

“We’re addicted to the app that comes with it and shows how much power we’re using,” Linda says. “We are tweaking and tweaking to make savings and have now decided to go through the whole house and change bulbs to LEDs and are re-looking at how we’re heating our water. Now we have solar we just think there must always be a better solution – it’s made us look at all our energy consumption.”

As well as the cost savings and the knowledge their solar system is environmentally sound, Linda and Graeme have noticed a surge of positive feedback not just from guests but also their neighbours.

“It’s been massive – just incredible interest in what we’ve achieved,” Linda says. “We’re very happy to have conversations with the guests, show them the app and talk them through the process. They’re always amazed at how slim and sleek the battery is – and we’ve even managed to pass on five or six contacts to Nerum!

“When we promoted it on the local grapevine people were already well-aware of this goal to be self-sufficient. We’ve had so much interest that we’ve run a series of drop-in days so people can see what we’ve done.

“It’s been great marketing for us, it’s added interest in The Roost and it’s helped us push our philosophy.”

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