Planning advances for New Zealand's largest solar farm

Hawke’s Bay Airport is advancing plans for a commercial solar farm on-Airport capable of producing up to 10 megawatts of electricity.

In a media release, Hawkes Bay Airport announced SEANZ member Vector Powersmart as the technical partner for the project capable powering the equivalent of more than 2000 houses - the initial stages of construction are anticipated to be completed by the end of 2021.

SEANZ Chairman Brendan Winitana congratulated Vector Powersmart saying "this project is indicative of the increased uptake of commercial-scale solar and proposals for grid-scale solar farms driven by the drop in installation costs. It makes economic sense now to be investing in solar and competitive finance rates are making it a highly attractive proposition for businesses around the country with real impacts on their bottom-line".  

Full media release from Hawkes Bay Airport:

Leading renewable energy provider Vector Powersmart has been confirmed as the technical partner for the next stage Hawke’s Bay Airport’s ambitious 10MW commercial solar farm project.

Hawke’s Bay Airport Limited chief executive Stuart Ainslie today announced the next stage of the project, a feasibility plan, and technical design which would see unused land at the airport becoming New Zealand’s largest solar farm capable of powering the equivalent of more than 2000 houses.

Vector Powersmart general manager Rogier Simons said early indications suggest the ten-hectare site is well suited to a high performing, commercial renewable energy farm that could provide new revenue streams for the airport company as well as supporting its desire to become New Zealand’s first carbon-neutral airport.

“The airport land and the sunny environment it sits within has significant potential. The land itself is largely undeveloped due to height restrictions and being flat offers advantages for installation.

“We’re proud to be involved in another landmark solar project as the market continues to mature in New Zealand.”

Last week Vector Powersmart completed New Zealand’s largest solar project, the build of a 1MW floating solar installation on Watercare’s Rosedale wastewater treatment pond in Auckland. The Hawkes Bay Airport solar farm project would be ten times that size at 10MW.

“We are very excited to be partnering with Hawke’s Bay Airport and its joint venture partner electricity lines provider Centralines Limited. Collectively we’ve got an airport committed to creating a new revenue stream and minimising its environmental impact, a well-respected local lines provider and our experience of designing and constructing solar farms,” Mr Simons said.

Hawke’s Bay Airport chief executive Stuart Ainslie said selecting Vector Powersmart as its preferred technical partner was a significant milestone as the airport looks to become the first airport in New Zealand to be powered by solar energy as well as creating new revenue streams, following the financial turbulence created by COVID-19.

Mr Ainslie said the renewable energy project ticks many boxes for the airport company, which recently committed to a vision of becoming New Zealand’s first carbon-neutral airport.

“We are set to open New Zealand’s newest domestic airport early next year and we can see a future in greater use of renewable energy on both sides of the terminal through the electrification of vehicles.

“Vector Powersmart has vast experience and expertise in the feasibility, design and construction of utility-scale and commercial solar projects in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. They will provide us with the direction to realising the potential of underutilised land at the airport.

“Before COVID-19, we were forecasting one million passengers a year by 2025, but we have now pushed this target out to 2030, this will have a financial impact. Therefore, we need to continue to be innovative in our approach to operating a strategic regional asset.

Mr Ainslie added that the project would not only generate sufficient electricity to meet the airport’s requirements, but it will also supply surplus energy to others looking for a 100 percent renewable supply noting that the airport has already had some encouraging discussions with potential regional partners.

“We anticipate some significant innovations in the aviation industry post COVID-19 which could result in demand for electricity growing rapidly.

“This is already starting to happen on the landside of our business with electric and hybrid vehicles and if airlines pursue hybrid technology for short-haul routes, then this could grow exponentially.

Read the full media release on Hawkes Bay Airport's website here.

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