Work on illuminating Auckland's Harbour Bridge with of thousands of LED lights is underway - but it may not be the so-called "world first" solar-powered bridge as first mooted.

Sydney-based lighting design company Mandylights has begun work installing about 90,000 LED lights, including a bold strip outlining the motorway and bridge arch and lights that will reflect off the water from the relatively low bridge.

The solar light show is due to be completed before the end of summer with a spectacular opening along the 1km span. The bridge will be lit up every night and changed into active light shows for events like New Year's Eve, Auckland Pride Festival, Diwali and the Lantern Festival.

The $10 million project will be named Vector Lights after a partnership between power company Vector and Auckland Council to promote energy efficiency and new and emerging energy technology. Most of the costs are being met by Vector.


Four months ago, Vector and council claimed the bridge would be the first in the world to be lit up entirely by solar-stored energy. This led one energy expert, who did not want to be named, to say a costly new cable would be needed for the claim to be true.

Vector chief executive Simon Mackenzie yesterday said the solar power would be fed from nearby Wynyard Quarter to the bridge through an existing power line.

Mackenzie said the line would be using a new technology called 'peer to peer trading' using smart meters to regulate and measure solar power from Wynyard Quarter to the bridge.

Peer to peer trading is a new technology that allows suppliers and customers, right down to homeowners, to buy and sell excess electricity by cutting out the middle man.

Asked if the 'world first' claim still stacked up, Mackenzie said "we believe that is a legitimate kind of perspective" and questioned the need to build a separate ring-fenced power line for solar power. Besides, he said, a connection to the network would always be needed for security of supply purposes.

A rendered image of how the Auckland Harbour bridge will look once lights are installed powered by solar energy and battery. Photo / Supplied
A rendered image of how the Auckland Harbour bridge will look once lights are installed powered by solar energy and battery. Photo / Supplied

Mackenzie said the project was not only be an absolutely fantastic addition to an iconic piece of Auckland's landscape to captivate people year-round and for special events, but also showcased Vector's future vision for energy.

"The bridge will be lit by LED lights predominantly, which has a significant impact on people's energy use," said Mackenzie, who said a large chunk of Aucklanders switching to LED lights would reduce Vector's power consumption by 10 per cent to 15 per cent.

A solar-powered public information kiosk is being set up at Karanga Plaza in Wynyard Quarter by Panuku Development Auckland to showcase Vector Lights and other sustainable measures at the waterfront precinct.


Lighting by numbers


The number of colour-changing LEDs on the bridge, as well as 100 spotlights. NZTA will also install additional LEDs to replace their current street and signage lighting.


The number of solar panels providing energy for the bridge - 248 panels will be installed by the official launch, with more to follow.


The battery storage for the bridge - 475kWh at first, with more added later is enough to power 400 average homes for an hour.


The solar panels at Wynyard Quarter will deliver 114MWh of energy - enough to power 11 homes for a year


By using solar and battery, we're avoiding a potential 27 tons of carbon going into the atmosphere. At launch, the carbon offset will be equivalent to 13.6 tons, which will increase to an expected 27 tons in 2018.