Solar energy collaboration wins Energy Excellence Award

A University of Auckland collaboration to help bring solar energy to more homes in Aotearoa New Zealand has been recognised at the Energy Excellence Awards.

Energy Excellence Awards
Associate Professor Nirmal Nair (right) has been working with solarZero to prepare New Zealand’s electricity grid for the future.

solarZero, a New Zealand solar energy services provider who have been working closely with researchers from the Faculty of Engineering, won the Innovation in Energy Award at a ceremony in Christchurch on 30 August.

Associate Professor Nirmal Nair and his Power Systems research group from the Faculty of Engineering have been collaborating with solarZero since 2021 in an effort to prepare Aotearoa New Zealand’s electricity grid for the future.

The team, along with NZX, Transpower and Panasonic, were involved in developing the technology for the solar and battery systems company, which aims to provide safe, stable distribution of solar energy around homes in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The award, sponsored by Ara Ake, was presented to solarZero for an industry-first achievement: the utilisation of a vast network of distributed batteries to provide ancillary support to the wholesale market.

Energy Excellence Awards
Associate Professor Nirmal Nair (centre) with the solarZero team.

By mid-2024, solarZero expects over 15,000 of its systems to be enrolled to offer reserves, providing up to 80 megawatts of reserves capacity.

Ultimately, this is all public good research,” says Dr Nair. “We are developing technology not just for New Zealand but also the world, and finding solutions towards rapidly decarbonising as we speak.”

Dr Nair and his team are working on several other projects to support infrastructure for upcoming tech companies who are in need of expertise and technology as we move towards the zero-carbon “grid-forming” architecture of the future.

“Our science is further ahead than what exists now, and we’re socialising our students with new innovations. We’re looking to 2050 with an emphasis on Kiwi researchers and companies taking hold of their future as these technologies begin to scale upwards.

“We’re in a period where policy and green innovation is coming together to change the way we work, so now is the right time to invest in this expertise.”

Media contact

Hussein Moses | Media adviser
M: 027 361 1000