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How Does Rooftop Solar Compare to Solar Farms In New Zealand?

Home » Knowledge Hub » How Does Rooftop Solar Compare to Solar Farms In New Zealand?

There’s lots of talk about solar farms, with new projects being announced every week. But how do solar farms stack up against residential rooftop solar?

And what’s the better investment for our country? Watch the video below for our thoughts.

What is a solar farm?

A solar farm is a large-scale solar installation. These farms are often located in remote areas and require large tracts of land to accommodate the solar panels.

The power generated then feeds back into the national grid to be distributed to where it is needed. It basically operates the same way a power station or hydro dam does.

Power produced here is owned directly by a utility or sold wholesale to utility buyers via a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). We have seen some agreements in New Zealand where businesses have agreements with Solar Farms to buy this power e.g. the Warehouse.


The benefits of Solar Farms in New Zealand:

  • Scale – Solar Farms provide large generation capacity in one location. For example, some of the recently opened solar farms in New Zealand contain 60,000 solar panels, and produce around 50 GWh of energy annually
  • Low cost of production per unit of energy generated – due to the economy of scale.


The downsides of Solar Farms:

  • Consents- projects this big have to go through a consenting process which can take a long time.
  • Space- 60,000 solar panels take up a lot of room. You need to have appropriate land, which leads to complicated debates about land use. It’s worth noting many solar farms can be multipurpose, for example still allowing for the farming of sheep. 
  • The biggest issue is our distribution infrastructure. As generation is at a different location to consumption, power needs to be moved via our transmission lines, and into our homes. There has been historic underinvestment in our national grid, and it is simply not able to cope with the increased consumption that comes with an electrified New Zealand. This means investing in solar farms, or any large-scale generation, only solves one piece of the puzzle.


The Alternative: Residential Rooftop Solar

If instead of big solar farms, we supported investment into rooftop solar for households, it would solve a lot of distribution issues and put the control of power back in people’s hands.

The benefits of rooftop solar:

  • Lower installation cost.
  • Doesn’t require large amounts of space.
  • Much more accessible, as it can be installed almost anywhere.
  • Reduced transmission issues as your power is produced locally.


The downsides of rooftop solar:

Our thoughts

If enough homes get rooftop solar it may mean we don’t need to upgrade the existing infrastructure, which would save the country millions of dollars.

New Zealand needs to invest in more renewable energy generation to meet our goals of electrification. In the current environment, investment is pouring into solar farms, which is great to see. We just believe if we put the same investment and effort into rooftop solar, it will reduce the pressure on the grid and put money and power back into people’s hands.


Ready to explore your solar options? Contact us to discuss your options.