Mercury has started construction of a Research and Development Centre in Auckland to showcase world-leading solar, battery storage and other energy technologies that have the potential to unlock new value and choice for Kiwi consumers and businesses.
Chief executive, Fraser Whineray, says in a media statement that the new R&D Centre on the site of the former gas-fired Southdown power station is “a signpost to the future and New Zealand’s continued leadership in renewable energy”.
The initial installation, to be completed by November this year, will include highly-efficient glass panels from global leader Trina Solar along with three types of battery technology (from LG Chem, SolaX and Enphase), smart electric vehicle charging solutions, and sophisticated energy analytics and monitoring equipment.
Mr Whineray says this “local test-bed for world-leading consumer generation reflects the unstoppable momentum of renewables in New Zealand”. Initial total annual output of renewable solar energy will be around 110,000 kWh with the majority of energy from the 78 kW solar array used on-site. The previous fossil-fuelled electricity generation on the Southdown site had peak carbon emissions of 500,000 tonnes per year less than a decade ago.
“This is about extending our strength in renewables and making proven new options available, particularly with electric vehicles and solar, to give Kiwis more freedom in how they generate, store and use energy.”
Mercury has been confirmed as the preferred residential and commercial sales partner in New Zealand for Trina Solar, regarded as a global leader in photovoltaic (PV) technology and sustainability practices.
The Mercury executive leading the development, Matthew Olde, (pictured) says: “This is a fantastic opportunity for us to bring the very best technology in the world here for Kiwis. We are New Zealand’s only solar installer, electricity retailer and 100% renewable energy generator. This unique combination establishes Mercury as a ‘one-stop shop’ for our customers to understand how solar and storage options can work together to deliver new ways to enjoy our wonderful clean, green New Zealand energy.
“We want our customers to know how this technology performs. We believe it’s important for Mercury’s customers to have options tailored to their needs so they get the most value out of their energy.”
Mr Olde says the company will be trialling a variety of solar panels, including advanced prototypes not yet available in New Zealand, offering unprecedented levels of efficiency, great new look design and 30-year performance guarantees.
The latest battery technologies will be integrated with solar generation, as well as EV charging, to show how a total ‘home energy ecosystem’ can create, store and use energy. Solar Analytics’ patented monitoring and optimisation software will also be installed at the site.
Mr Whineray says Mercury’s acquisition of one of New Zealand’s leading solar businesses (What Power Crisis) in March this year added proven installation and technical expertise to a company with a heritage in renewable hydro and geothermal generation.
Auckland-based What Power Crisis also has expertise in solar installation outside of New Zealand, particularly in the Pacific, delivering both on and off-grid solutions with storage, including the Fred Hollows Foundation Eye Hospital in the Solomon Islands, and commercial solar solutions for the Auckland Museum and Air New Zealand.
“Solar is becoming an increasingly popular choice for New Zealand homeowners and businesses, and this in-house capability is strategically important as we continue to shape new offerings for Mercury customers.”
Mr Whineray says advancing technologies such as electric vehicles, solar, battery storage and other energy data services are creating opportunities to build on New Zealand’s position as “a global super-power in renewable electricity” and deliver greater value for customers.
“We want to inspire Kiwis to enjoy energy in more wonderful ways. That could be creating and storing your own energy, plugging in your car to enjoy low-cost renewable fuel or just having the freedom to get more out of the electricity you use in your home.”