New Zealand generation company Lodestone Energy has confirmed its plans to build the country's largest network of solar power generating stations (Plan to harness the power of sun, Northland Age April 29).
Five solar farms will be built across the upper North Island, including one outside Kaitaia, generating enough electricity to power a city the size of Hamilton or 150,000 electric vehicles.
Lodestone Energy managing director Gary Holden said the $300 million development, the most ambitious solar venture in New Zealand to date, would provide solar energy to Kaitaia, Dargaville, Whakatāne, Edgecumbe and Whitianga.
"These farms are a game changer for the electricity market, and will increase New Zealand's current solar generation eightfold. The first phase of development will see more than half a million solar panels built over 500ha of land," he said.
"Together the five solar farms will act as one giant generation plant, using the power of the sun to inject sustainable renewable power into our electricity grid during the daytime and helping reduce the country's reliance on fossil fuels.
"Solar costs have fallen sharply in recent years, and we are now at the point where grid-scale solar power, if well-located, is the most economic form of new electricity generation. Also, because it delivers power during the daytime period, it has the highest value to the market."
The company, which was privately funded, had attracted financial backing from some of New Zealand's best-known investors and entrepreneurs, Holden saying the project would advance New Zealand's national energy goals, contribute to lower power prices for consumers, and help address climate change.
The farms would comprise between 70,000 and 170,000 solar panels that would track the sun across the sky.
"We have selected each site so that it is located in the country's sunbelt, between the 34th and 39th parallel, placing them at the equivalent latitude of the Mediterranean and Southern California," Holden added.
The Kaitaia site would be consented first, with construction scheduled to start late this year, and producing electricity next summer.
The plants, which would be constructed very quickly, would be environmentally friendly, using no water, making little noise, creating no pollution and releasing zero emissions.
The panels would be raised off the ground, so the land could continue to be grazed or cropped.