Lightsource bp and “gen-tailer” Contract Energy plan to build up to 380 GWh of annual grid-scale PV generation in New Zealand by 2026. The companies have now been chosen to develop what will be one of the nation’s largest solar farms.
Christchurch Airport has selected Lightsource bp – an equal joint venture between UK-based solar specialist Lightsource and oil giant BP – and New Zealand’s Contract Energy as its partners to help develop the first 150 MW phase of the planned Kōwhai Park renewable energy precinct.
The first stage of the park will initially consist of a 150 MW solar farm capable of generating 290 GWh of clean energy per year which will be utilised to help the aviation industry shift away from fossil fuels. Battery energy storage and green hydrogen generation are also earmarked for the precinct in the future, with Christchurch Airport seeking to accelerate the decarbonisation of industry in New Zealand.
“This starts with the solar farm but we’re working to include green hydrogen generation down the track,” Christchurch Airport Chief Executive Officer Justin Watson said. “Kōwhai Park will enable low-emissions aviation and help provide the extra green energy New Zealand needs to transition away from fossil fuels. We’re excited to have found partners with the technical capability to do this well and the values to ensure it’s done right.”
The solar farm, to comprise an estimated 300,000 solar panels, will be developed on a 300-hectare site adjacent to the runways at the Christchurch airport. The location is close to power distributor Orion’s network and to grid operator Transpower’s lines.
Subject to a final investment decision, construction of the solar farm is expected to commence in 2024. The Kōwhai Park project is Lightsource bp’s first in New Zealand, but it is unlikely to be the last.
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