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Gisborne unsuitable as solar power project

An international group planning a network of solar power developments across New Zealand has ruled out setting up in Gisborne.

Helios Energy, a collaboration of renewable energy developers from the United States and New Zealand, has been quietly developing a pipeline of approximately 1 gigawatt of grid-connected solar developments across New Zealand over the last two years.

Helios director Jason McDonald told The Herald that while the company had looked at Gisborne as a potential site, it had no immediate plans to set up here as it had been unable to find suitable land and there were problems with the region’s electricity supply.

“One of the first places we started looking was, of course, the East Coast but we are focusing on larger-scale connections to the Transpower grid and to date we haven’t found a site for our business model that’s a suitable size to connect in.

“We’re looking at typically between north of 75 megawatts of a project size, which would translate to about 150 hectares and it would need to be quite flat ground.

“At this stage we haven’t found a site to fill that capacity.

“One of the challenges is the electricity in the Eastland region. Given its lower population it’s quite hard to get generation in there and then get the export out. We’d have loved to do a project there but at this stage there are no immediate plans.

The company yesterday issued its first press release announcing its plans.

“We expect to be making site development announcements and resource consent applications over the coming months,” Mr McDonald said.

“We will also be looking to engage on regulatory settings that can support solar developments right across the country.”

Mr McDonald said it was encouraging that new entrants were entering the energy market and challenging the established players, but development experience was vital.

“While solar is an incredible opportunity to generate large volumes of clean, renewable energy, it needs to be done at genuine scale. Additionally, competitively financing large projects can be challenging and responsible solar development requires long-term commitment to community partnerships.

“The Helios team has built a track record of securing commercial funding for major solar developments around the world and is committed to building partnerships with landowners, communities and tangata whenua that deliver mutual benefit.

“We will be partnering with landowners and communities in service of developing cheaper, cleaner solar energy solutions, and will be providing regular updates on our progress.

“We’re hugely excited about the opportunity to take a lead role in transforming New Zealand’s energy sector in service of meeting New Zealand’s climate change commitments and democratising participation in our energy system.”