Monday, April 22, 2024

NZ’s largest solar farm to date officially opened 

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Kaitaia is also the first solar farm in country to bid into electricity market.
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Lodestone Energy has flicked the switch on at its first solar farm in Kaitaia.

The farm was officially opened on February 29, and at the same time the company announced it has successfully raised a further $55 million capital to continue its solar farm expansion.

The event brought together many of the organisations that helped Lodestone deliver New Zealand’s first large-scale solar generation plant including local iwi, Te Rarawa, construction partners, Infratec and New Energy by Drillco, and solar panel provider Trina Solar. 

Construction at Kaitaia ramped up in early 2023, with Lodestone’s Kohirā solar farm generating its first power in November last year.

Lodestone Energy managing director Gary Holden said the occasion marks a pivotal point in NZ’s electricity market with the company delivering the first grid-scale solar generation plant.

“As New Zealand’s largest solar installation to date and the first solar farm in New Zealand to bid into the electricity market, this is a crucial step forward in the future of energy generation.

“Many organisations were involved in delivering this project and learnings from Kaitaia are being used in the construction of our other sites with Edgecumbe close to starting generation and Waiotahe construction on target to be generating by the end of the year.”

The site’s official name, Kohirā, was gifted by Te Rarawa and translates to “suncatcher” in te reo Māori. The partnership with local iwi aligns with Lodestone’s commitment to work with tangata whenua to deliver solar projects that empower both the regions in which they operate, and the way Kiwis live.

Another first for NZ is the agri-voltaic design of Kohirā, which maximises the production of electricity and maintains productive farming. 

With more than 61,000 solar panels installed, the farm will generate 56 GWh of power annually. This is earmarked for residential and commercial energy consumers, including the Warehouse Group, which signed up more than 250 sites across NZ to Lodestone’s Phase 1 portfolio.

Lodestone’s Phase 1 capital programme consists of five solar farms fully funded in 2022, with Kohirā operating, construction underway in Edgecumbe and Waiotahe and on track to begin this year at two other Phase 1 solar farms in Whitianga and Dargaville.

The $55m equity capital raise was led by Jarden Principal Investments who will be managing a significant investment from Fisher Funds, alongside contributions from other existing investors, including Purpose Capital, Tauhara North No. 2 Trust, ACC, K1W1 and Pathfinder.

Lodestone’s Phase 2 programme is set to be larger in scale, with three confirmed South Island farms and additional sites expected to be announced this year.

In Focus Podcast: Full Show | 1 March

Bryan catches up with ACT MP Mark Cameron, who chairs the Primary Production Select Committee. He reckons it’s easier getting things done with a committee that understands farming on a personal level. And he outlines the coalition plans to help farmers flourish this year.

We also talk to Federated Farmers Waikato dairy vice-chair Phil Sherwood, who not only spent the summer milking cows, he also opened a maze constructed from maize that has attracted big numbers of visitors.

And senior reporter Richard Rennie discusses his upcoming trip to Australia, where he’ll investigate how our neighbours are tackling the issue of carbon farming.

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