Electrical engineer Ashley Jones is passionate about renewable energy and says getting off the grid is easier and cheaper than people think.
“It’s clean and green, and solar energy will save you around 70 per cent on your current power bill,” Ashley says.
Ashley was born and brought up in Warkworth. His parents owned Gubbs Motors and his new business is based at the old family home on Kaipara Flats Road.
“I’m a sixth generation Jones – there’s Jones Bay at Tawharanui and later the family farm was at Whangaripo Valley. My Nana and Grandad both went to Matakana Primary School.”
After qualifying as an electrician in 2003, Ashley left Mahurangi and spent several years overseas. He has worked on super-yachts in France, mega-factories in Britain and built solar farms in Samoa.
“In Samoa, they used noisy diesel generators that pollute the air and are costly to run. The solar farm we replaced them with now powers 1500 homes, producing 2.2 megawatts from 26,000sqm of solar panels.”
Ashley recently returned to Warkworth after spending three years in Australia, honing his skills with a large solar power company.
“The Australian Government subsidises solar schemes. If you’re building a new eco-home, solar power is as important as double-glazing or proper insulation. It should be mandatory for new homes here in New Zealand.”
Ashley says installing solar power in the average home costs $6000 to $10,000. He estimates that would be recouped through power savings in around eight years.
Battery technology to store domestic electricity for use overnight is still costly, but Ashley expects that will change.
“Within the next two years batteries will be affordable. The Tesla-type home battery is the way of the future. My solar systems can easily connect to any battery when the technology becomes more affordable.”
To get the best out of solar-generated power, Ashley recommends using appliances such as washing machines, dryers, dishwashers and water heaters on timers during the day. Installing low energy LED lighting and setting heat pumps to warm the house before coming home from work also increases the benefits of becoming your own power provider.