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NZ's first floating solar array

The country's biggest solar array will float atop a wastewater treatment pond on Auckland's North Shore. 

Auckland electricity company Vector, along with Auckland Council's Watercare, plan to install the panels on the Rosedale facility in Albany, near the northern motorway. 

The companies announced the news earlier in the week; a spokesman said procurement was underway with plans to install the array in the first quarter of 2020.

Artist impression of Rosedale Wastewater Treatment Plant floating solar array.

It's expected to generate enough power over a year to run the equivalent of 200 average New Zealand homes for 12 months.

It would be the largest solar project of any type in New Zealand and more than twice the size of the country's current largest solar array.

A Vector spokesman said the solar panels would generate 1480Mwh (megawatt hours) of electricity each year with zero emissions.

Vector Group chief executive Simon Mackenzie said it would be the first time floating solar was seen in New Zealand and the first megawatt-scale solar project to be confirmed.

"Even larger systems are already common overseas and with reports out of Australia of costs as low as 4-5 cents per Kwh (kilowatt hour), 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."

Once built it will contain more than 2700 solar panels - Vector Lights on Auckland Harbour Bridge has 248 panels - and 3000 floating pontoons.

Watercare chief executive Raveen Jaduram said, "The project is a fantastic example of how utilities can work together for the benefit of their communities.

"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 were a smart way to reduce operational costs, he said.

Watercare has given itself a target of reducing its energy use by 8Gwh by 2022 and to achieve energy self-sufficiency at its Māngere and Rosedale wastewater treatment plants by 2025. 

The array will add to electricity from the grid as well as cogeneration from biogas, which is already generated on-site from wastewater treatment. 

Electricity is used for pumping natural bacteria which helps break down waste during the treatment process.


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