Mercury is building a research and development centre for solar, battery storage and other energy technologies on the site of its former gas-fired Southdown power station in Auckland.

Chief executive, Fraser Whineray said the centre would be a test bed for solar technology not seen in New Zealand before.

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.

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,'' Whineray said.

Whineray said he doubted many consumers would be able to get off the grid.

''People who do want to go into solar will still need the grid, the vast majority of us simply don't have a big enough north facing roof and you'd have to spend an exorbitant amount on batteries.''

While niche, it was important for the company to take a lead on solar. Mercury bought solar business, What Power Crisis, in March.

''This is going to be a part of the global energy landscape so let's get into it,'' Whineray said.

The Mercury executive leading the development, Matthew Olde, said the company would trial a variety of solar panels, including advanced prototypes offering new levels of efficiency, new designs and 30-year performance guarantees.