Aug. 20 (Bloomberg) — Meridian Energy Ltd., the biggest New Zealand electricity producer, has agreed to buy solar power developer Cleantech America Inc. to expand into renewable electricity generation in the U.S.

Government-owned Meridian, which operates New Zealand’s largest hydroelectric dams, paid $5.4 million for Cleantech and a five megawatt photovoltaic solar facility the San Francisco- based company is building in Mendota, California.

“Moving into the U.S. represents a very important step for Meridian and for the first time adds solar to our renewable portfolio,” Chief Executive Officer Tim Lusk said in a statement distributed by Business Wire. The purchase will also assist solar projects the company is considering in the Pacific and Australia, he said.

Construction of Cleantech’s CalRENEW-1 project will begin shortly with commissioning due in December, Lusk said. Its output will be sold to Pacific Gas & Electric Co. under a long- term contract.

Wellington-based Meridian will provide additional resources to Cleantech to help it expand through development and acquisition of renewable power resources in the U.S., Lusk said.

“The experience we gain from this involvement in the U.S. will assist enormously with the options we are exploring in the Pacific and Australia,” he said in a second statement.

“Meridian is already exploring solar opportunities in the Pacific Islands, where power systems are dominated by expensive diesel generation.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Gavin Evans in Wellington

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Iain Wilson