Utilities team up to build New Zealand's first ever floating solar array

Key Points
  • The project is a collaboration between two utilities, the Vector Group and Watercare.
  • At the moment, solar only makes up a small proportion of New Zealand's total electricity generation
Pierre Longnus | The Image Bank | Getty Images

A wastewater treatment pond will soon be home to New Zealand's largest solar array. The facility, which will also be the country's first floating solar array, will be built at the Rosedale wastewater treatment plant, in the North Shore area of Auckland. 

The project is a collaboration between two utilities, the Vector Group and Watercare. The system will use over 2,700 solar panels and 3,000 floating pontoons.

In an announcement Tuesday, Vector said the array would supplement both electricity from the grid and co-generation from biogas. The biogas is already produced on-site.

"It's the first time floating solar will be seen in New Zealand and the first megawatt-scale solar project to be confirmed," Simon Mackenzie, the CEO of the Vector Group, said in a statement.

"It can generate enough power over a year to run the equivalent of 200 average New Zealand homes for a year," he added.

Solar power only makes up a small proportion of New Zealand's total electricity generation, less than 0.2% according to the Energy in New Zealand 2018 report from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

As a whole, the floating solar industry is still relatively small, but it is growing. In October 2018, a report from the World Bank Group and the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore stated that the worldwide capacity of floating solar had increased from 10 megawatts at the end of 2014 to 1.1 gigawatts by September 2018.

High profile developments in the floating solar sector include Lightsource BP's 6.3 MW scheme on the Queen Elizabeth II reservoir near London. That project uses 61,000 floats to provide a platform for 23,046 solar panels. Lightsource BP is 43% owned by oil giant BP.