New Zealand’s largest utility-scale solar project starts generating power


From pv magazine Australia

Renewables developer Lodestone Energy has started generating energy at its 39.4 MW solar project in Kaitaia, on New Zealand's North Island. The developer, which started work in late 2022 and broke ground in April 2023, expects the project to generate 55 GWh of power per year.

Besides the Kaitaia Solar Farm, Lodestone’s phase-one capital program includes solar projects at Edgecumbe, Waiotahe, Whitianga and Dargaville. While Kaitaia is the first of Lodestone’s solar farms to start generating, Edgecumbe is expected to be commissioned early in 2024 and Waiotahe late in the same year.

“This project ushers in a new era for energy in New Zealand. Kaitaia is the first solar farm at this scale and is a key step in helping New Zealand deliver on its climate goals,” said Gary Holden, managing director of Lodestone Energy. “It is also crucially important to our customers who have contracted with us to meet their own sustainable energy objectives.”

The Kaitaia installation is an agrivoltaic project, so agricultural activity can continue in and around the solar installations and even be enhanced by the solar facility. The project is surrounded by regeneration efforts with tree planting, among other elements.

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With more than 61,000 solar panels installed at the North Island plant, the farm’s 55 GWh of power annually will flow to residential and commercial energy consumers, including all of the stores in New Zealand’s Warehouse Group, which is signed up to Lodestone’s phase 1 portfolio.

Lodestone Energy is New Zealand’s first utility-scale solar generation company and is wholly New Zealand-owned. About 80% of New Zealand’s electricity is from renewable sources, most of which is hydro generation, and less than 1% is generated by solar power. This looks set to change as the field of solar energy slowly ramps up in Aotearoa.

This week, The New Zealand Herald reported that a smaller solar farm has also started generating power.  The Te Ihi o te Rā solar facility has just started generating power in Gisborne’s airport district on the mid-east coast of the north island. The solar farm produces enough power for 1,000 homes, with about 7,300 MW of electricity produced annually.

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