New Zealand’s transition to renewable energy has received a boost, as German investment manager Aquila Capital is teaming with renewable asset developer Far North Solar Farm to start construction on a 1 GW portfolio of large-scale PV projects.
Auckland-based renewables developer Far North Solar Farm (FNSF) said this week that it has partnered with German investment manager Aquila Capital to develop an estimated NZD 1 billion ($625.8 million) suite of large-scale solar PV projects across New Zealand’s north and south islands.
FNSF, which recently started building a 16 MW solar farm near Pukenui, said the pipeline of projects could supply approximately 4% of New Zealand’s total annual energy demand. That would represent approximately 11% of the country’s current clean energy generation capacity. The 1 GW pipeline includes multiple project sites across the north and south islands, with FNSF confirming it has already secured 13 sites close to transmission points.
FNSF Director John Telfer said both companies have “invested significant capital and resources to select and assess suitable project sites and obtain the required permits and consents to advance these sites to ready-to-build status … We can’t wait to start constructing the solar photovoltaic sites we have planned and consented. To be partnering with such a committed global investor in clean energy generation as Aquila Capital, and on the scale we collectively intend, is exciting not only for us but also the entire country.”
Telfer said the companies aim to break ground on at least four North Island projects this year, with the remainder of the projects to be rolled out over the next two to five years. Hamburg-based Aquila Capital, which manages more than 12 GW of wind, solar PV and hydropower assets throughout the world, said the projects would support New Zealand’s clean energy transition and target of net-zero emissions by 2050.
Aquila Asia Pacific CEO Alexander Lenz said the companies had been encouraged by New Zealand’s progressive renewable energy targets and the government’s soon-to-be-announced Emissions Reductions Plan.
“We are excited to reach this stage of development after assessing all possible sites and preparing for our solar PV build-out with FNSF,” he said. “This would not have been possible without New Zealand’s focus on meeting its progressive clean energy targets. The time for clean energy is now, and together with FNSF, we are ready to support New Zealand’s ambitious energy transition goals.”
The announcement comes as FNSF continues construction on its Pukenui solar farm being developed on the Far North’s Te Aupōuri peninsular. The NZD 30 million project will feature 32,000 solar panels spread across a 12-hectare site. The asset is expected to be commence generation later this year.
FSNF and Aquila Capital are the latest firms to target solar developments in New Zealand. While the largest operational PV facility in the country is Sunergise’s 2.1MW Kapuni Solar Power Plant that began operations in May last year, power companies Meridian, Contact Energy and Genesis and new players Lodestone and Helios have all announced plans to build solar developments of various sizes in the past 12 months.
These commitments come with New Zealand’s biggest solar array currently under construction. The 150 MW Kōwhai Park solar farm is being developed by Christchurch Airport on a 400-hectare site adjacent to its runways. The project will scale up over the next 30 years with the first stage to deliver a 220-hectare solar array capable of generating enough electricity to power 30,000 homes.
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