Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Solar farm planned for Maniatoto farmland

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The farm would support the continued grazing of sheep under and around the solar panels.
There has been a rush of solar farm projects in recent years, but so far only a few have got off the ground.
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A 660ha solar farm capable of powering 70,000 homes annually is planned for farmland in Otago, Maniototo district.

New Zealand solar company Helios Energy has confirmed it will seek resource consent for the 300-megawatt solar farm, situated between Ranfurly and Naseby.

It is the second solar farm planned for the region. 

Earlier this year the Central Otago District Council signed off consent for Energy Bay Limited’s solar farm project, consisting 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.

Helios co-founder and managing director Jeff Schlichting said the Maniototo plain is a high-quality solar resource. 

The wider region was already a renewable electricity generation hub for the country via its hydro dams and robust electrical transmission infrastructure.

“The planned project will be located on 660ha of land owned by two local farming families and will generate enough clean, renewable electricity to power the equivalent of around 70,000 homes annually.

“It is an important contribution toward meeting future energy demand, complementing the region’s strong hydro generation,” he said.

Schlichting said care had been taken to select a site that minimises visual impacts. The farm could take two years to build but once developed, will be quiet, passive and well screened by existing shelter belts and topography, as well as extensive new planting on the site boundary.

“The solar farm will produce no emissions and have no negative impact on soil or water. At the end of the solar farm’s operational life it can be rapidly decommissioned, allowing the land to be returned to its previous use,” he said.

Schlichting acknowledged that while the solar farm occupies only a fraction of the Maniototo Plain landscape, it represents a new land use for the district. 

The solar farm can support the continued grazing of sheep under and around the solar panels. Helios is committed to a transparent consenting process and to engaging openly with the local community, he said.

“This solar project can be developed while still preserving and protecting landscape, ecological and rural amenity values. Responsible grid-scale solar projects like this are essential if we are to meet our national climate change commitments and power Aotearoa New Zealand’s economy.”

Helios is hosting a community information drop-in session at the Maniototo Golf Club in Ranfurly between 3-7pm on Thursday October 5. 

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