Property owners look to large-scale solar to revitalise land

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Lodestone Energy will partner with the owners of the 22,000-hectare Haldon Station located in the heart of the South Island high country to build and operate a 220 MW solar farm.

The Haldon Station solar farm will be constructed across a 340 ha site that the landowners said has suffered from significant wind erosion due to its dryness and pest infiltration with the project partners confident the solar installation will deliver meaningful ecological restoration.

Haldon Station Farm Manager Paddy Boyd said the owners have spent several years investigating options to utilise this non-productive area along with ways to reduce net emissions on the station.

“We believe, from research and observation on other well-planned developments on the property, that the partial shade and shelter from the panels will result in a beneficial effect on the lands below and will result in revegetation of the original native fauna and flora,” he said.

“The station is planning for the area to be ring fenced with rabbit netting and totally destocked to allow for full regeneration of the natural grasses.”

The benefits of agrivoltaics continue to attract supporting evidence with new research showing a major benefit is the micro-climate created under the solar arrays providing for improved grass and forage production.

Construction of the Haldon Station solar farm is planned to start in 2025. The facility is expected to generate 340 GWh of clean energy annually, enough to power nearly 50,000 homes.

The 220 MW project will be Lodestone’s largest to date and continues its expansion into the South Island as it continues to build its PV portfolio.

“There’s increasing demand from commercial customers to have 100% renewable energy, which is helping the country move towards a zero-carbon future,” Lodestone Managing Director Gary Holden said.

“By diversifying our production and expanding into the South Island, we’re helping meet our customers’ needs, giving them an alternative power option and playing a key role in meeting zero carbon goals.

“In addition, we can support Haldon Station achieve its goals through restoration support.”

Haldon Station is the fourth solar farm to be constructed on the South Island with  Lodestone earlier this year announcing sites for the 24 MW Clandeboye, 15 MW Mount Somers, and 72 MW Dunsandel solar farms.

The company already operates two generating solar farms in the North Island, including the 33 MW Kohirā solar farm near Kaitaia in the far north, and the 32 MW Rangitaiki in Edgecombe in the Bay of Plenty.

Lodestone has three additional North Island projects currently under planning or construction. The 42 MW Te Herenga o Te Rā solar farm near Waiotahe in the Bay of Plenty is set to come online later this year and Lodestone is also developing a 32 MW solar farm near Whitianga and another 52 MW project in Dargaville, both in Northland.

Lodestone said each of these solar farms is designed to allow stock grazing and horticulture to continue around and underneath the solar infrastructure, ensuring it maximises New Zealand’s renewable energy output in the most sustainable way.

The company said this approach will allow the land to continue to be productive, with more than 85% of baseline farming yield expected when the solar farms are operational.

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