Hawke's Bay Airport says its planned solar farm will be ten times bigger than New Zealand's current largest, as it releases a plan of what it might look like.
The airport has partnered with Vector Powersmart, the technical provider behind NZ's current largest solar farm - Watercare's Rosedale wastewater treatment pond in Auckland - to build a commercial solar farm on airport land.
The 10 megawatt farm will be ten times the size of the 1MW floating solar farm built for Watercare.
The solar farm would sit south of the runway on 10 hectares of land which is unused, and will create electricity capable of powering the equivalent of 2000 houses.
The creation of the solar farm is part of the airport's plan to become the first carbon neutral airport in the country and will also provide a new revenue source for the business.
Despite the impact Covid-19 has had on the air travel industry, Hawke's Bay Airport CEO Stuart Ainslie says it is "absolutely the right time" to be moving forward with the project.
"Before Covid-19, we were forecasting one million passengers a year by 2025, but we have now pushed this target out to 2030, this will have a financial impact.
"Therefore, we need to continue to be innovative in our approach to operating a strategic regional asset.
"The airports which fared the best are probably the ones which have got the most resilience through other revenue streams.
"Renewable energy and advancing solar and hydrogen and other things have been talked about for a while and we think if we don't strategically start moving forward, we might actually be the last to catch the bus."
He said due to the way they have structured the partnerships it was unlikely they would have to put in any direct capital in the next 18 or 24 months.
Ainslie said this is a way of diversifying the airport's income stream and creating a "point of difference" for the airport when businesses look at development options.
In the first instance they would look at business customers which Ainslie said there has been interest from.
In the future, there could be other opportunities such as partnering with Air NZ or councils for residential electricity options.
"We anticipate some significant innovations in the aviation industry post Covid-19 which could result in demand for electricity growing rapidly.
"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," Ainslie said.
Vector Powersmart general manager Rogier Simons said early indications suggested the site is well-suited to a high performing, commercial renewable energy farm.
"The airport land and the sunny environment it sits within has significant potential.
"The land itself is largely undeveloped due to height restrictions and being flat offers advantages for installation.
"We're proud to be involved in another landmark solar project as the market continues to mature in New Zealand."
Earlier in the year the airport partnered with joint venture partner electricity lines provider Centralines Limited.
"Collectively we've got an airport committed to creating a new revenue stream and minimising its environmental impact, a well-respected local lines provider and our experience of designing and constructing solar farms," Simons said.