A huge solar farm proposed for north Waikato would provide enough power to power 40,000 homes a year, but opponents say it would be a bane to the landscape.
British company Island Green Power Ltd, under the name Waikato Solar Farms Ltd, has announced its intention to develop a 380 ha solar farm in Waiterimu, 26 km from Te Kauwhata.
In partnership with landowners, the rows of solar panels would supply renewable energy to the national grid to offset coal operations at the Huntly Power Plant.
Deemed to be the country’s first large-scale solar farm, Island Green Power chief executive Ian Lawrie said the project is well north of $ 100 million and will become a major player in achieving the goal of government in renewable energy.
Science journalist Veronika Meduna wrote an article for North & South magazine on our recent history of climate change, examining the policies and politicians involved.
* Sun shines on PM as Northland Solar Farm opens, but clouds remain over coal usage
* Wind farms produce cheap, green energy – so why did we stop building them?
* New Zealand’s largest solar farm proposed for the country’s summit
“Island Green Power is really excited to be a part of this project,” Lawrie said. Things.
“Globally, about 80% of all new electric capacity added each year is renewable and almost all of it is solar and wind.
“New Zealand has wind farms, but surprisingly there aren’t any significant solar farms yet. “
Because of this, he said, the company – which has more than 25 years of experience developing solar farms – decided it was obvious to come to New Zealand.
Between 60 and 70 percent of New Zealand’s electricity comes from renewable sources. Most of it is provided by hydropower and less than one percent is generated by solar energy.
If resource consent is obtained, solar panels would produce around 300 gigawatt hours per year, providing enough power to serve up to 40,000 homes.
“This will remove a significant portion of emissions from the power sector and will be important for New Zealand to meet its climate change commitments.”
He said northern Waikato was chosen because of its convenient location for everything needed to run an efficient solar farm.
The main selling point was its proximity to the country’s most robust transmission infrastructure between Auckland and Hamilton, which supplies the electricity needs of the upper North Island.
The other is the fact that it can provide a cleaner source of power for Huntly Power Station.
“As coal operations phase out at Huntly, electricity previously produced from coal will be replaced by clean solar power in a similar part of the transmission grid.
“Building a solar farm here reduces the need to build new transmission lines further south on both islands. “
While not against New Zealand for securing a large-scale solar farm, Waiterimu landowner Douglas Dobbs argues that the Waiterimu Valley is not the right place.
Dobbs, who has owned a section adjacent to the site for 40 years, said the signs would look shameful in the rolling valley.
It was her beauty that attracted him and many others, he said.
Dotted with totara trees and a stream running through the middle, the Waiterimu Valley is one of a kind, he said.
“I had planned to build a house on top of the hills overlooking the section, but now my view will be blocked by rows of solar panels.
“It’s shameful and will ruin the pristine views.”
He said other immediate neighbors also discussed their disapproval.
Most are also worried about the impact it will have on the value of their land, he said.
“Solar farms are great – I’m not against them – I just think there are so many better places this could be.
“Waiterimu is not the right place”.
Lawrie, however, maintains that the farm will coexist with traditional rural land uses, leaving very little impact on the land.
“The Waiterimu site in particular was chosen because Transpower’s 220 kV Huntly-Ohinewai line crosses the site, which offers potential connection options.
“No new transport infrastructure will be needed other than a new connection point. This is also important to ensure that the energy generated by the solar farm is supplied to the national grid in an efficient manner that avoids losses. “
He said the company is committed to keeping animal husbandry among solar panels, preserving and restoring pockets of native bush in sensitive areas and areas unsuitable for solar panels such as steeper hills, to be promoted. bird and bee life, to provide a landscaped screen, and to cease the use of fertilizers and associated nitrate runoff in surrounding lake watersheds.
With the farm layout and design still being finalized, the company plans to submit a resource consent request to Waikato District Council by the end of February 2022.
If approved, construction would begin at the end of 2023. An open house for the project will take place in early 2022.