With the ability to produce 190 times more electricity than New Zealand's current largest grid-connected solar facility, a 400-megawatt solar farm has been planned for the Taupō region.
Nova Energy, owned by the Todd Corporation, has applied for two resource consents from Taupō District Council to construct the project in three stages over six or seven years. When completed, it will involve more than 750,000 individual solar panels and could power 100,000 homes – more than one in every 20 houses across New Zealand.
"To meet the 2050 net carbon zero target, New Zealand needs more renewable energy, which Nova can provide," the company's CEO Babu Bahirathan said.
Nova already runs the country's largest solar farm connected to the electric grid, the 2.1-megawatt Kapuni plant in Taranaki. The new project would be far and away the largest solar farm in New Zealand, with more than double the capacity of a 150 MW farm being constructed at Christchurch Airport.
About three quarters of a million individual solar panels covering more than 1000 hectares will track the sun from east to west each day. The panels will cover an area larger than Auckland and Christchurch's CBDs combined and will displace an existing dairy farm. The solar project will be built in three stages of 150 MW, 150 MW and 100 MW, with the dairying scaled down as the panels are brought in.
However, Nova is hopeful that other rural activities could continue to occur on the site. A spokesperson for the district council said that could include sheep grazing, cropping, pollinator planting and beekeeping. Waterways would also be rejuvenated, and riparian margins would be planted with native flora.
Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods hailed the Taupō project as the latest in a long line of large-scale renewable energy projects – more than $2 billion worth.
"It shows a massive amount of activity as generators look to meet New Zealand’s future electricity needs and move away from fossil fuel generation," she said.
"It’s also great to see independent operators like Nova making a move into renewable generation in this way."