14 May 2010

Meridian solar plant powers up in California

8:04 am on 14 May 2010

Meridian's first solar power plant has begun generating electricity in California.

The power is being sold to a local utility company under a long-term purchase agreement.

Meridian says it is exploring solar power opportunities in the Pacific Islands and hopes to also generate it in Australia and New Zealand in the long term.

But the country's largest generator of renewable electricity believes commercial solar power generation is still a decade away in New Zealand.

Meridian corporate ventures manager Guy Waipara says it is still only profitable to build solar power plants in countries that offer subsidies, which New Zealand does not.

Although the cost of building the plants has fallen by a third over the last two years, Mr Waipara believes it will have to halve in cost again before it becomes commercially viable to build in New Zealand, which he says could take 10 years.

He says the top of the South Island, the Coromandel, Northland and the East Coast of the North Island would be ideal spots for commercial solar power generation.

Mr Waipara says discussions are taking place at a federal level in Australia about setting up a subsidy, which would be the catalyst to kick off the market there.