A large solar farm on Hawke's Bay Airport land could be a way for the airport to make money as well as achieve its goal of carbon neutrality.
The airport has taken its next step to become the first carbon-neutral airport in New Zealand and entered a joint venture agreement with Waipukurau-based company Centralines to explore the idea of a commercial solar farm.
It is intended to be developed on land to the west of the main runway towards the Poraiti hills where height restrictions prevent the land from being built on.
Resource consents will be sought for a solar array capable of producing 10 megawatts of electricity.
Strategy and business development manager Dean Smith said because it takes roughly 1 hectare to produce 1 megawatt, the solar farm could be about 10ha in size.
This would generate sufficient electricity to meet the airport's needs and will also supply surplus energy to others looking for a renewable energy source, he said.
"We're anticipating some significant innovation in the aviation industry, particularly post Covid-10 which could result in demand for electricity growing rapidly," chief executive Stuart Ainslie said.
"This is already starting to happen on the landside of our business with electric and hybrid vehicles and if airlines pursue hybrid technology for short-haul routes then this could grow exponentially.
"If this is the future then the scalable nature of the project will ensure the airport is in the best possible position to work collaboratively with key partners such as Air New Zealand," he said.
Centralines has also been actively monitoring the changing energy generation landscape and is excited by the opportunities presented by this project.
"Centraline's vision is to be a collaborative partner that enables growth and delivers in the new energy economy" Centralines chairman Jon Nichols said.
"Hawke's Bay Airport is an innovator and we are very pleased to have been invited to be part of their solar farm project development.
"The joint venture is well-positioned to work through all the key issues that require sign off prior to any final decision to build."
The two parties will be working through the project development process to select technical partners and get the project to an investment-ready state.
They will be calling for expressions of interest from potential technical partners over the coming weeks and intend to apply for resource consent later in the year
The project could be developed in stages and construction is anticipated to begin in the second half of 2021.
In January the airport achieved the mapping stage of the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme.
The programme independently assesses and recognises the efforts of airports to manage and reduce carbon emissions through four levels of certification - mapping, reduction, optimisation and neutrality.