This week, Auckland’s electricity and water utility companies announced plans to build New Zealand’s first and largest floating solar array in the heart of the city’s North Shore.
As of now, specifics are few and far between, but Auckland-based utilities Vector Limited — an electricity and gas distribution company — and Watercare — a water and wastewater services company — are claiming that the project will mark a number of firsts for New Zealand, including being the first floating solar project in the country and the largest solar project of any type so far confirmed in New Zealand, at more than double the size of the country’s current largest solar array.
“It’s the first time floating solar will be seen in New Zealand and the first megawatt-scale solar project to be confirmed,” said Vector Group CEO Simon Mackenzie. “Even larger systems are already common overseas and with reports out of Australia of costs as low as 4-5c per kWh, when that scale arrives here we’ll see solar’s real potential to set a new cap on the wholesale market which over the past few days has been around double that.
“Vector PowerSmart’s capability to design and deliver this innovative system shows how new energy solutions are key to helping business reach their economic and environmental goals, and we’re proud to be working with Watercare to help it achieve both.”
“The project is a fantastic example of how utilities can work together for the benefit of their communities,” added Watercare chief executive Raveen Jaduram. “As a large user of energy, it’s important that we look at ways of reducing our environmental footprint and becoming more self-sufficient. Innovative solutions like this on top of wastewater ponds are a smart way to reduce operational costs.”
The specific size of the project is not known, but what is known is that it will utilize more than 2,700 solar panels and will result in a reduction of 145 tons of CO2 each year. The project will be built atop the Rosedale wastewater treatment pond near the Northern Motorway in Auckland and, as it stands, is the first floating solar confirmed for deployment in New Zealand.
New Zealand currently boasts only around 80 megawatts (MW) of solar but, according to an update published in February by state-run grid agency Transpower, the country has the potential to increase its solar capacity to as much as 11 gigawatts (GW) if solar PV was rolled out across all households. By 2050 the potential for New Zealand rooftop PV could reach as much as 27 GW. That being said, New Zealand is nevertheless still powered by almost 90% renewable energy with hydroelectricity serving as the country’s largest source of electricity generation.