Solar panels light up the cook islands

A South Canterbury company's subsidiary has switched on a $3.3 million Cook Islands solar power plant.

Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna opened Netcon subsidiary Infratec Renewables' 960-kilowatt Te Mana o Te Ra plant in Rarotonga on Monday.

The country aims to produce 50 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by next year, rising to 100 per cent by 2020. The panels Infratec installed are expected to produce about 5 per cent of the Cook Islands' electricity.

Infratec general manager Peter Apperley said the project had been a huge collaborative effort between New Zealand and the Cook Islands.

Site manager Tony Scott and 10 Rarotongan workers installed the panels next to Rarotonga International Airport. They will be owned and operated by Cook Islands electricity company Te Aponga Uira.

New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade paid for the power plant and High Commissioner Joanna Kempkers said the project had been completed on time and on budget.

Netcon parent company Alpine Energy's chief executive Andrew Tombs said Alpine remained interested in the development of solar power.

A trial of solar panels on its Tekapo substation had produced mixed results so far.

Alpine would consider trialling a solar-powered house with an electric car to improve its models for customers who chose to install their own panels, Tombs said.