The Auckland Harbour Bridge will be set in lights in a bold plan poised to transform the city's skyline and create a global attraction.

The $10 million project will see the bridge illuminated with lights powered by solar energy. It is believed to be the first major bridge in the world to have all its lighting powered entirely by solar power from 630 panels installed on top of North Wharf in Wynyard Quarter.

The lights can be still or transformed into spectacular displays for events like New Year's Eve and Auckland Pride Festival.

The bridge will join world monuments like the Sydney Opera House, Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building and Dubai's Burj Khalifa skyscraper, which all light up in customised displays. Often the lights are set to match a holiday or in solidarity of a tragic event such as this week's Manchester bombing.

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Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the harbour bridge was a city icon and lighting it up at night would make it a more interesting and vibrant sight.

"Powered by solar energy, it will also reflect our commitment as a city to energy efficiency, sustainability and low carbon emissions," Goff said.

The planning, consenting and installation of nearly 90,000 LED lights and 200 floodlights is expected to take several months. It is hoped the lights will be turned on at a special event before the end of 2017.

The project - which will cost about $10 million - is part of a 10-year energy efficiency partnership between power company Vector and Auckland Council. Vector is paying most of the costs spread over several years and council will fund digital programming of the lights for special events.

Vector chief executive Simon Mackenzie said no-one would ever look at the bridge in the same way when the lights were turned on. He said the project highlighted the company's commitment to sustainable energy.

The lights will be powered by a mega 500kW battery, enough energy for about 200 homes.

Every light - using half the energy of standard lighting - will be individually controlled, allowing colours to change. For special event lighting it will cost about $5000 each time to programme.

In 2009, the Auckland architectural firm Patterson Associates proposed lighting up the Harbour Bridge for the 2011 Rugby World Cup with new technology floodlights below the roadway as part of a winning entry in the Cavalier Bremworth Award in unbuilt architecture - but the concept never came off.

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Award-winning architect Hamish Monk, who designed the LightPath cycleway, said the project would bring Auckland to life. He thought it had the potential to make the bridge an iconic symbol for the city.

"It will illuminate the whole harbour.

"It'd be great to bring a static piece of infrastructure to life at night."

Lighting the bridge represents the next phase of a 10-year partnership between Vector and Auckland Council. The parties are already delivering 15,000 free LED light bulbs, hot water control units and home energy advice to homes in Papakura and Takanini.

Ten local organisations, eight schools, two kindergartens and two community facilities will also receive a solar-driven battery that delivers reliable energy around the clocks.

The New Zealand Transport Agency, which manages the bridge infrastructure, says it is pleased to support the project.

"The bridge has been an integral part of the city since it was built more than 50 years ago and we're delighted to be using sustainable resources to bring it to life at night," says NZTA chief executive Fergus Gammie.

NZTA has a separate project to replace the existing road lighting with energy efficient LED lights over the next 18 months.