Solar power in New Zealand

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Solar potential of New Zealand
Solar panels on a home in Auckland

Solar power in New Zealand is on the rise, but there are no subsidies or intervention from the New Zealand Government. As at the end of December 2021, New Zealand has 186.7 MW of grid-connected photovoltaic (PV) solar power installed, of which 72.4 MW (8.8%) was installed in the preceding 24 months.[1] In the year to December 2020, 159,000 megawatt-hours of electricity was generated by solar power, or 0.37% of all electricity generated in the country.[2]

Although there are no subsidies, the declining costs of photovoltaics has caused a large increase in demand over the last few years. In 2009, the average turnkey price for a standard PV system of three kilowatts (kW) was about NZ$40,000; by 2019 this had dropped to approx. NZ$8,500.[3]

Distributed systems[edit]

As of the end of March 2021, 31,589 solar power systems have been installed in New Zealand. For new installations, the average residential system size was 4.6 kW and the average commercial system was 17.8 kW.[1]

The largest solar power system on a school in New Zealand was officially opened in a ceremony in February 2019 at Kaitaia College. Kelvin Davis, unveiled a plaque to acknowledge the installation of the 368 solar panel project which is spread across the rooftop of multiple buildings on the school campus.[4]

By January 2014, solar photovoltaic systems had been installed in 50 schools through the Schoolgen program, a program developed by Genesis Energy to educate students about renewable energy, particularly solar energy. Each school has been given a 2 kW capacity PV system, with a total distributed installed capacity of 100 kilowatts-peak (kWp). Since February 2007, a total of 513 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electrical energy have been recorded.[5]

In January 2020 Foodstuffs announced it would be installing a 1.1 MW PV array on its new Auckland distribution centre.[6][7] In October 2020 Watercare Services installed a 1 MW floating array on its Auckland wastewater treatment plant.[8]

In 2021, Kea Energy commissioned a solar power plant in the Wairau Valley in Marlborough with a potential capacity of 2.2 MW, with current plans to build capacity up to 1.85 MW as at March 2021.[9] In June 2021, the Todd Corporation commissioned a 2.1 MW solar plant at Kapuni in south Taranaki. The facility includes 5800 solar panels and was claimed to be the largest grid-connected solar plant at the time.[10]

Grid-scale plants[edit]

In July 2019 Refining NZ announced plans for a 26 MW solar farm at the Marsden Point Oil Refinery, but by May 2020 the project was on hold.[11][12] In February 2020 Genesis Energy Limited announced plans for a 300 MW facility in the Waikato.[13]' In September 2020 Hawke's Bay Airport announced plans for a 10 MW farm on unused airport land.[14] In May 2020, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment released a study that considered the economics of grid-scale solar and gave forecasts to 2060, showing that New Zealand has potential for gigawatts of grid-scale solar.[15]

In February 2021 Far North Solar Farm applied for resource consent for a 16 MW farm at Pukenui on the Aupouri Peninsula in Northland.[16] In May 2021 Lodestone Energy announced plans for five solar farms in the upper North Island, capable of generating 400 GWh annually.[17][18]

In December 2021 Christchurch Airport announced it would be hosting a 150 MW plant at Kōwhai Park, to be scaled up over 30 years.[19][20] On 30 December 2021 Island Green Power announced plans for a 200 MW solar farm in Waikato.[21] In April 2022 Helios Energy announced plans for a series of farms with a combined output of 1 GW.[22] In May 2022 Far North Solar Farm announced a partnership with Aquila Capital to build 1 GW of generation.[23]

Proposed and under construction[edit]

Only solar plants over 5 MW generating capacity are listed.

Name Location Operator Projected capacity (MW) Status Coordinates
Gisborne Airport[24] Gisborne Eastland Generation 5.2 Proposed
Hawke's Bay Airport[25] Napier, Hawke's Bay Hawke's Bay Airport 24 Proposed
Helensville[26] Helensville, Auckland HES Aotearoa 70 Proposed 36°41′20″S 174°26′20″E / 36.68889°S 174.43889°E / -36.68889; 174.43889
Kōwhai Park[20] Harewood, Canterbury Christchurch Airport 150 Proposed 43°29′45″S 172°30′38″E / 43.49583°S 172.51056°E / -43.49583; 172.51056
Lauriston[27] Lauriston, New Zealand HES Aotearoa 50 Consented
Lodestone One[28] Dargaville, Northland Lodestone Energy Proposed
Lodestone Two Kaitaia, Northland Lodestone Energy 39.4[29] Consented 35°4′54″S 173°13′10″E / 35.08167°S 173.21944°E / -35.08167; 173.21944
Lodestone Three Waiotahe, Bay of Plenty Lodestone Energy Proposed
Lodestone Four Edgecumbe, Bay of Plenty Lodestone Energy Proposed
Lodestone Five Whitianga, Waikato Lodestone Energy Proposed
Pukenui Pukenui, Northland Far North Solar Farm 16 Under construction 34°49′06″S 173°6′38″E / 34.81833°S 173.11056°E / -34.81833; 173.11056
Ruakaka[30] Marsden Point, Northland Meridian Energy 75 Proposed
Smith Canal[31] near Ruawai, Northland Lightyears 11 Proposed
Tauhei[32] Te Aroha, Waikato Harmony Energy 185[33] Proposed
Taupō[34] Taupō Nova Energy 400 Proposed
Waiterimu[21] near Ohinewai, Waikato Island Green Power 200 Proposed

Cost-effectiveness[edit]

Retail buy-back rates for solar power exported to the grid range from 7 to 17 cents, plus 15% GST if the system owner is GST-registered.[35] Cost-effectiveness of a residential solar power occurs when system owners aim to use more of their solar power than what they export, by means of timed appliances, turning on appliances when the sun is out, energy management systems and battery storage. Commercial buildings that use power during the day can get a high return on their investment.[36]

A 2015 study found that PV was more economical than grid supply if all the PV electricity was used on site and none was exported to the grid. For residential and commercial installations, improving energy efficiency is a lower cost option than PV.[37]

Statistics[edit]

Source: NREL[38]
Installed solar generation as of 31 March 2022[39]
Network reporting region Installations Uptake (%) Total capacity (kW)
Far North (Top Energy) 1,384 4.12 7,592
Whangarei and Kaipara (Northpower) 1,573 2.56 8,470
Waitemata (Vector) 3,791 1.54 17,588
Auckland (Vector) 3,530 0.98 21,556
Counties (Counties Power) 1,230 2.65 6,344
Thames Valley (Powerco) 1,329 1.79 6,568
Waikato (WEL Networks) 1,709 1.78 8,954
Waipa (Waipa Networks) 883 3.09 5,847
King Country (The Lines Company) 106 0.44 1,041
Tauranga (Powerco) 2,333 2.55 11,513
Rotorua (Unison Networks) 378 1.18 1,816
Eastern Bay of Plenty (Horizon Energy) 410 1.63 1,855
Taupo (Unison Networks) 193 1.09 835
Eastland (Eastland Network) 420 1.63 1,771
Hawke's Bay (Unison Networks) 1,560 2.39 8,039
Central Hawke's Bay (Centralines) 214 2.45 1,267
Southern Hawke's Bay (Scanpower) 57 0.84 264
Wairarapa (Powerco) 818 3.10 3,736
Taranaki (Powerco) 950 1.58 6,847
Whanganui (Powerco) 514 1.50 2,220
Manawatu (Powerco) 872 1.53 4,373
Kapiti and Horowhenua (Electra) 989 2.14 4,348
Wellington (Wellington Electricity) 1,838 1.04 7,723
Nelson (Nelson Electricity) 237 2.58 989
Tasman (Network Tasman) 1,531 3.65 8,163
Marlborough (Marlborough Lines) 819 3.11 6,129
Buller (Buller Electricity) 27 0.56 132
West Coast (Westpower) 58 0.41 309
North Canterbury (MainPower) 1,293 3.03 6,153
Central Canterbury (Orion) 3,737 1.76 19,152
Ashburton (EA Networks) 336 1.65 1,977
South Canterbury (Alpine Energy) 545 1.62 2,585
Waitaki (Network Waitaki) 154 1.16 1,153
Queenstown (Aurora Energy) 410 2.32 2,373
Central Otago (Aurora Energy) 1,039 4.46 5,038
East Otago (OtagoNet) 250 1.62 1,641
Dunedin (Aurora Energy) 456 0.81 1,897
Southland (The Power Company) 472 1.27 2,794
Invercargill (Electricity Invercargill) 127 0.72 617
Total 38,572 1.73 201,668


Solar power installations rose steadily from 2013 to 2019 (see table to the left for detail)
Solar installations - numbers, sizes and proportion of total installed capacity from 2013[40]
As at ICP count ICP uptake rate (%) Total capacity installed (MW) Avg. capacity installed (kW)
31 December 2013 2,236 0.11092 8.326 3.724
31 December 2014 5,423 0.26616 21.634 3.989
31 December 2015 9,377 0.45512 37.126 3.959
31 December 2016 13,654 0.65528 52.972 3.880
31 December 2017 18,049 0.85537 70.185 3.889
31 December 2018 22,355 1.04626 90.160 4.033
31 December 2019 26,476 1.22233 116.584 4.403
31 December 2020 30,639 1.39407 143.510 4.684
31 December 2021 36,611 1.64131 186.645 5.098

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Installed distributed generation trends". Electricity Authority.
  2. ^ "Energy in New Zealand | Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment". www.mbie.govt.nz. Retrieved 2021-12-30.
  3. ^ "The Big Reveal: The Growth Of Solar Power In New Zealand - From 2013 To 2019". My Solar Quotes.
  4. ^ "New Zealand's largest solar energy system on a school opens at Kaitaia College". SEANZ. 27 February 2019.
  5. ^ "Schoolgen". Genesis Energy.
  6. ^ "New Zealand's first megawatt roof top array". Revolve Energy. Retrieved 29 June 2021.
  7. ^ "Foodstuffs building country's largest solar panel roof". Stuff. 27 January 2020. Retrieved 29 June 2021.
  8. ^ "Biggest solar farm in country installed on Auckland wastewater lake". Stuff. 2 October 2020. Retrieved 29 June 2021.
  9. ^ Solignac, Morgane (21 March 2021). "New Zealand's 'most beautiful' solar panel farm makes itself home in Marlborough". Stuff. Retrieved 27 June 2021.
  10. ^ "New Zealand's largest grid-connected solar power plant up and running". RNZ. 27 June 2021.
  11. ^ "Refining NZ plans country's biggest solar farm". New Zealand Herald. 7 July 2019. Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  12. ^ Mandow, Nikki (15 May 2020). "Can our oil refinery survive?". Newsroom. Retrieved 29 June 2021.
  13. ^ Jamie Gray (21 February 2020). "Genesis Energy sets sights on north Waikato solar power". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  14. ^ Georgia-May Gilbertson (11 September 2020). "Unused airport land will be used for country's biggest solar farm". Stuff. Retrieved 27 June 2021.
  15. ^ Miller, Allan (2020). Economics of Utility-Scale Solar in Aotearoa New Zealand - Forecasting Transmission and Distribution Network Connected 1 MW to 200 MW Utility-Scale Photovoltaic Solar to 2060 (PDF) (Report). Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Retrieved 19 February 2022.
  16. ^ Denise Piper (14 February 2021). "New Zealand's largest solar farm proposed for top of country". Stuff. Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  17. ^ Tom Pullar-Strecker (12 May 2021). "$300m plan for five solar energy farms, providing 1pc of country's supply". Stuff. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  18. ^ "Solar power: Planned network will increase generation eight-fold - company". RNZ. 12 May 2021. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  19. ^ Liz McDonald (1 December 2021). "Solar plant powering 30,000 homes to be built at Christchurch Airport". Stuff. Retrieved 1 December 2021.
  20. ^ a b "New Kōwhai Park at Christchurch Airport to generate renewable energy". RNZ. 1 December 2021. Retrieved 1 December 2021.
  21. ^ a b Sharnae Hope (30 December 2021). "$100m solar farm pitch for north Waikato". Stuff. Retrieved 30 December 2021.
  22. ^ Tom Pullar-Strecker (19 April 2022). "Top Google exec backs $1.3 billion investment in NZ solar power". Stuff. Retrieved 19 April 2022.
  23. ^ "Solar power: companies plan to start building at multiple sites". RNZ. 11 May 2022. Retrieved 25 May 2022.
  24. ^ Andrew Ashton (11 January 2022). "Harnessing the sun". Gisborne Herald. Retrieved 4 February 2022.
  25. ^ "Airport announces solar farm partnership". SunLive. 23 March 2022. Retrieved 24 March 2022.
  26. ^ "Helensville solar farm plan faces some local opposition". RNZ. 25 February 2022. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  27. ^ Jonathan Leask (17 June 2022). "Large-scale solar farm planned in Mid Canterbury". Stuff. Retrieved 18 June 2022.
  28. ^ "The Solar Farms". Lodestone Energy. Retrieved 1 December 2021.
  29. ^ "Huge solar farm leaves room for livestock". FedsNews. 20 April 2021. Retrieved 1 December 2021.
  30. ^ "Meridian Energy to build solar farm next to Marsden Point refinery". RNZ. 15 December 2021. Retrieved 15 December 2021.
  31. ^ "SMITH CANAL SOLAR 11 MW". Lightyears Solar. Retrieved 1 December 2021.
  32. ^ "New solar farm proposed for eastern Waikato could power 30,000 homes". Stuff. 17 February 2022. Retrieved 17 February 2022.
  33. ^ "Application 2021-068 Tauhei Solar Farm (Harmony Energy NZ Limited)" (PDF). Ministry for the Environment. 9 December 2021. Retrieved 18 June 2022.
  34. ^ "NZ's largest solar farm to be built near Taupō". Newsroom. 12 April 2022. Retrieved 13 April 2022.
  35. ^ "Solar Power Buy-Back Rates NZ". My Solar Quotes. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  36. ^ "Solar Power Self-Consumption". My Solar Quotes.
  37. ^ Miller, Allan; Hwang, Michael; Lemon, Scott; Read, E.Grant; Wood, Alan (24–26 June 2015). Economics of Photovoltaic Solar Power and Uptake in New Zealand (PDF). EEA Conference & Exhibition. Wellington. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  38. ^ "PV Watts". NREL. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  39. ^ "Installed distributed generation trends". Electricity Authority. Retrieved 27 August 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  40. ^ "Electricity Authority - EMI (market statistics and tools)". www.emi.ea.govt.nz. Retrieved 2019-12-21.

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