Hamilton Airport has flicked the switch on a solar energy farm in the first stage of a renewable energy project.
The 5000sqm operation was switched on this month and fully powers the refurbished airport terminal during daylight hours and some ancillary buildings, including the on-site fire station.
The solar farm, located south of the airport terminal, is the first stage of two. The second stage would be a carport-like structure of solar panels covering the airport’s car park, which is expected to be completed within the next two to four years.
Waikato Regional Airport chief executive Mark Morgan said the project would make Hamilton the first New Zealand Airport to install and commission its own solar energy farm with projects at Auckland Airport, Christchurch Airport and Hawke’s Bay Airport still underway.
He said solar energy from the farm would provide an “immediate” 25 per cent savings in the airport’s energy costs and would help to reduce its carbon footprint.
“The airport has a goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, with a planned 46 per cent reduction by 2030.”
He said while the energy cost savings were of welcome, reducing the airport’s carbon footprint with the help of the solar farm was about “future-proofing” its operations.
“This is also... [about] putting in place the infrastructure we’ll need to support growth, including for example electric vehicle chargers. And of course, the solar farm will play an important part in our carbon emissions reduction target.”
He said the project had been in the making since mid-2022 with the actual build completed within seven months by Renewable Generation Development Limited.
Morgan said the 840 solar panels don’t affect incoming and outgoing flights.
“Before we actually started the build, we commissioned an independent aeronautical study to confirm and reassure that the solar farm wouldn’t interfere with the airport operations.
“It’s on a piece of land to the south of the airport, that is not used for any productive operations and that is well away from the runway.”
Morgan said apart from regular maintenance checks, the solar farm was “pretty self-sufficient” and needed minimal managing.
“Now that it’s built, it’s literally just flicking a switch. Our staff are now managing it and so far it’s gone very well.”
At peak capacity, the $1.5 million operation would generate 460kW of electricity, enough to power about 350 homes.
Although the solar farm was just a two-stage project, Morgan said it wouldn’t “limit future stages”.
Hamilton Airport is jointly owned by the Hamilton City, Waikato District, Matamata-Piako District, Waipā District and Ōtorohanga District councils.
Danielle Zollickhofer is a multimedia journalist based in Hamilton. She joined NZME in 2021 and is writing for the Waikato Herald.
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