Solar farm development heading to BOP

The 85 GWh solar farm set to be located in the Waiotahe Valley. Photo. Supplied.

Plans are in place to construct the country’s largest network of solar power generating stations.

New Zealand generation company Lodestone Energy will initially develop five solar farms built across the upper North Island, delivering enough electricity to power a city the size of Hamilton.

The $300 million development will provide solar energy to Whakatane, Edgecumbe, Whitianga, Dargaville and Kaitaia.

The Whakatane site is located in the Waiotahe Valley. The 85 GWh solar farm is in one of the sunniest locations in New Zealand and will contain up to 115,000 solar panels. 

The Edgecumbe site is a 52 GWh solar plant, the farm will include up to 70,000 panels and will supply electricity to 1700 residents and other nearby commercial and industrial users.

“These farms are a game changer for the electricity market and will increase New Zealand’s current solar generation eightfold,” says Lodestone Energy managing director Gary Holden.

“The first phase of development will see more than half a million solar panels built over 500 hectares of land.

“Together, the five solar farms will act as one giant generation plant, using the power of the sun to inject sustainable renewable power into our electricity grid during the daytime and helping reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels.

“Solar costs have fallen sharply in recent years and we are now at the point where grid-scale solar power, if well-located, is the most economic form of new electricity generation. Also, because it delivers power during the daytime period, it has the highest value to the market.”

Combined, the five farms will generate approximately 400 GWh of clean renewable energy, enough to power 55,000 homes or the equivalent of more than 150,000 electric vehicles.

The company, which is privately funded, has attracted the financial backing from some of New Zealand’s most well-known investors and entrepreneurs.

Lodestone Energy hope to advance New Zealand’s national energy goals, contribute to lower power prices for consumers and help address climate change.    

“Solar energy needs to play an increasingly important role in delivering New Zealand’s renewable electricity,” says Gary.

“This is how we’ll meet our future energy needs, as well as complement the country’s hydro, geothermal and wind resources to help achieve the Government’s goal of 100 per cent renewable generation by 2030.”

Each of the solar farms will contain between 70,000 and 170,000 solar panels.

The panels move to track the sun across the sky and electricity will be produced from both sides of the panel, capturing light from both the sky and reflected from the ground.

While the farms are designed to meet morning and late afternoon peaks in electricity demand, rapid developments in battery technology mean that in the near future the farms should be able to store electricity generated during the day for distribution in the evening peak.

“We have selected each site so that it is located in the country’s sunbelt, between the 34th and 39th parallel, placing them at the equivalent latitude of the Mediterranean and Southern California, where solar generation is common,” says Gary.

The Kaitaia site will be consented first. Construction is scheduled to start by late 2021.

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Solar Power

Posted on 18-05-2021 13:00 | By

I feel that any solar structures should be built as part of, say a greenhouse structure so that good arable land is not wasted for this purpose. When you see acres and acres of commercial buildings with bare roofs, I wonder why the "air rights" of this roof space could not be rented out for solar panels? So giving a win/win to both farmers and commercial building owners.

Waste of space

Posted on 18-05-2021 12:05 | By

500 ha of wasted land I expect. It would be better to be placing these on the houses !

A sad day really

Posted on 18-05-2021 09:17 | By

Having driven past many of these installations in the UK. I can only say how upsetting it will be to see the encroachment of these hideous fields of "green" plague. There’s nothing pleasing about these money making ventures and as the panels need to be kept clean to ensure efficiency, placement of these projects needs to be well thought out (something sadly lacking in our push to save the world) unless pollution from reflected light from the panels impacts on the lives of local residents. I hate the very idea of our farmlands being polluted by a plague of growing black death.