The Rangitāiki Solar Farm site is on a 1022 ha farm, near Taupō. Nova Energy staff are pictured visiting.
A dairy farm is set to become New Zealand’s largest solar power plant.
Resource consent has been granted for the 400 MW solar power plant near Taupō, which when completed will provide enough electricity for approximately 100,000 homes.
In May this year, Todd Generation, under its subsidiary Nova Energy, applied for permission to convert an existing 1022 ha dairy farm, approximately 35 km east of Taupō on State Highway 5, in a solar farm.
The proposed solar farm, opposite the Rangitāiki Tavern, would involve the installation of around 900,000 ground-mounted solar panels, along with the equipment needed to send electricity to the national grid.
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This would be done in three stages, phasing out dairy farms as work progresses, and over five years.
The site is currently operating with approximately 2,600 head of cattle and various agricultural infrastructure including milking sheds and manure management systems.
There are nine existing dwellings used for housing farm workers on the land.
Nova Energy Chief Executive Babu Bahirathan said the historic decision was a positive step towards expanding Nova’s renewable energy generation portfolio and an important step towards New Zealand meeting its renewable energy targets. on climate change and reducing emissions.
Nova Energy first ventured into solar power in 2021 after opening its 2.1 MW Kapuni solar power plant in South Taranaki.
“With 400MW consented, the proposed Rangitāiki solar farm is now the largest consented, grid-connected solar project in New Zealand.
“Our focus now is to assess the development path of the project,” Bahirathan said.
“This includes partnering with an experienced contractor to help build a high-quality power plant and manage the impact of the current economic climate on exchange rates, resource availability and the supply chain.
Subject to final investment decisions, the first stage of the Rangitāiki Solar Park proposes to build and connect up to 150 MW of capacity to the national grid over the next two years.
Bahirathan said the project would create hundreds of local jobs during construction and valuable training opportunities in the booming solar sector.
In his decision, Independent Resource Management Act Commissioner William (Bill) Wasley said four submissions had been received regarding the proposal – one in favor, two neutral and one opposed.
Federated Farmers New Zealand said it was concerned about the loss of productive farmland in the region and that this could have negative economic, social and cultural effects on rural populations.
He was also concerned about the potential of solar panels to leach toxins into groundwater and the longevity and recyclability of these panels.
However, Federated Farmers said it supports renewable electricity generation and improving regional power supply.
Nova Energy said its panels should not leach chemicals and recycling solar panels should have a 95% recovery rate, while support structures and copper cables could be fully recycled.
“The proposal however has significant positive effects given that it is a renewable energy proposal generating electricity from the solar resource and also involves the withdrawal of the dairy farm activity and the benefits derived from the restoration and revegetation of riparian habitats,” Wasley said in his decision.
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