Agrivoltaic project set to become New Zealand’s first utility-scale solar farm


New Zealand government-owned Genesis Energy and renewables developer FRV Australia have announced plans for a 52 MW solar farm near Lauriston on the country’s South Island.

The Lauriston solar farm, purchased from UK’s renewable developer Hive Energy, is already fully consented and has advanced grid connection approvals, with the companies saying it is ready for panel installation to begin in 2023.

Sheep grazing will be reintroduced below the solar modules upon the project’s completion, making it an agrivoltaic installation.

The 90-hectare Lauriston solar farm will hold approximately 80,000 solar panels and is set to generate around 80 GWh annually.

The project, set to be operational by 2024, will be New Zealand’s first large-scale solar farm. Solar in New Zealand is still very much in its infancy, with the country getting most of its renewable generation from geothermal, wind and hydroelectric generation plants.

These sources account for roughly 80% of the country’s electricity, and 40% of its total primary energy use.

New Zealand’s total energy mix, with “other” largely consisting of wind generation.

New Zealand government, sourced from Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment: Energy in New Zealand 2021 figures.

While New Zealand is yet to have a utility-scale solar farm in operation, there has been a number of recent announcements for projects in development, including plans for a 400 MW solar farm from private New Zealand company Todd Generation, and a 147 MW solar farm from UK-based Harmony Energy, both on the country’s North Island. Likewise, Lightsource bp and German investment manager Aquila Capital are looking to develop portfolios in New Zealand.

“There have been lots of solar announcements,” says Tracey Hickman, interim chief executive at Genesis, “but not many have the land, consents and grid connections in place.”

It is for its experience in developing utility-scale solar projects that Genesis Energy has teamed up with FRV Australia, the antipodean arm of Fotowatio Renewable Ventures, which has been owned by Saudi Arabia’s Abdul Latif Jameel Energy since 2015. The FRV Australia arm is today jointly owned by Abdul Latif Jameel Energy and Canada’s Omers Infrastructure.

The joint venture was announced in 2021 and sees Genesis Energy take a 60% stake while FRV Australia controls the remaining 40%. Having delivered a reported 800 MW of solar projects, including approximately 250 MW under construction, FRV Australia said at the time it was ready to expand its regional activities to the New Zealand market.

Together, the pair are aiming to deliver 500 MW of solar capacity in New Zealand over the next five years. 

“FRV Australia and Genesis have developed a very promising pipeline of solar projects expected to be delivered in the coming years. Lauriston solar farm complements our own pipeline and is poised to be the first large scale solar farm reaching operational stage in the country,” says Carlo Frigerio, managing director at FRV Australia.

More broadly, the Lauriston solar farm is part a program from Genesis Energy aiming to displace 2,650 GWh of thermal generation with new renewable power by 2030.

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