Friday, December 1, 2023

Central Otago farm makes space for solar energy

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Property will host 80,000 panels alongside space tracking station built in 2019.
The Leolabs space tracking station near Naseby may soon be joined by an 80,000 panel solar farm.
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A solar farm featuring 80,000 panels over 54ha has been approved for farmland near Naseby in Central Otago.

The property is owned by the Dowling family and is the same farm where Californian-based space technology company Leolabs built a space tracking station in 2019.

The Central Otago District Council signed off consent for Energy Bay Limited’s solar farm project earlier this year, saying the project would have a minor effect on the visual impact and rural character of the area.

The proposed development consists of about 80,000 solar panels mounted in groups over an area of about 54.5ha. The land is situated in Fennessy Road, about 3.5km from Naseby.

Each group of panels is ground mounted and allows the panels to be turned to face the sun as it travels across the sky. The maximum height of each group is approximately 4.5m at its highest point. 

Landscaping will be required to screen the development from public roads, including the Ranfurly-Naseby and Gimmerburn-Naseby roads.

The farm will be developed in phases with phase two of the project not starting until proposed vegetation screening has reached 3m in height.  About 8800 linear metres of trenching will be needed to install wiring and cabling for the development. 

At its peak, the farm will be capable of producing 50MW, which is enough to power about 9000 households.

Bay Energy is owned by Australian company Solar Bay Energy, 

Phil Dowling declined to comment on the development when contacted by Farmers Weekly, referring questions to Solar Bay Energy. The company has not responded to requests for an interview.

According to the company’s website, it has multiple solar farms in Australia and plans to build solar farms in Waimate and Albury, in South Canterbury.

The space tracking station at the Dowling’s farm was built by Leolabs to monitor space debris. It is part  of a global network of radars that track thousands of objects in Earth’s orbit, some as small as 2cm in diameter. The information helps map and track space objects and debris to avoid collisions and promote global space sustainability.

In 2021 the radar detected debris after Russia test-fired a space missile into one of its own satellites.

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