PV Replacing Off-Grid Diesel In New Zealand

After announcing this summer that 79 percent of its electricity is currently generated from renewable resources, New Zealand is reaching to the far corners of its national boundaries to get that last 21 percent. The New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) has announced plans to install solar photovoltaic (PV) systems at its Port Fitzroy and Okiwi bases on Great Barrier Island, about 60 miles off the coast of Auckland. Power at the two off-grid sites, where 11 DOC staff are based, is currently provided by four diesel generators.

The systems will consist of 138 solar panels. Each system will also have an inverter, with back-up power provided by a battery bank and a new, more efficient, diesel generator. The projects are expected to generate enough electricity to meet about 80 percent of the facilities’ needs, and reduce their diesel fuel consumption by 90 percent. According to Tim Brandenburg, DOC’s Warkworth and Great Barrier Island area manager, the project will be one of the largest off-grid solar power installations in the country, and will save the DOC about $45,000 per year in generator operation and maintenance costs.

image via Shutterstock

The project is part of DOC’s “sustainability program,” which aims to halve the department’s use of diesel generators by converting off-grid bases to run on renewable energy systems. Great Barrier will be the fifth island where DOC has built a solar power system.

“We fully endorse DOC’s conversion to solar power on Great Barrier as it fits with our goal to make the island a leader in the use of clean, renewable energy,” says Great Barrier Local Board chair Paul Downie. “The solar power systems DOC is installing are a welcome addition to Great Barrier’s renewable energy showcase that will help us show the rest of New Zealand how we can meet our power needs in a sustainable way.”

Lauren Craig is a writer and consultant living in Seattle, WA. She holds an M.S. in International Development from Tulane University, and is co-founder of Sustainable Systems Integrators, LLC., an employee-owned solar energy design and installation firm in New Orleans, LA. She is also certified in PV design and installation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).

1 Comment

  • Reply October 6, 2011


    New Zealand’s plans to get to near 100% renewable electricity production is quite stellar. This new project on Great Barrier sounds as though it may help to get them even closer. Once the conversion is in place, the next step will be to put in place backup systems that do not require fossil fuels. Congrats to New Zealand.

Leave a Reply