Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The future finally arrives

Over the past few years I've been watching the price of solar energy fall, to the point where it now outcompetes fossil fuels, and wondering when it is finally going to take off in New Zealand and give us the clean, green future we need to survive. And now it looks like that future has arrived, with plans announced for five solar plants in Northland and Bay of Plenty:

A new company has unveiled plans to build five solar energy farms in the upper North Island at a cost of $300 million, which will together be capable of providing about 1 per cent of the country’s electricity supply.

Lodestone Energy has secured sites near Dargaville, Kaitaia, Whakatane, Edgecumbe and Whitianga for the solar farms which it describes as “a massive turning point for the country’s energy production”.

Energy Minister Megan Woods said she was “hugely excited by the new, independent, entrant to the renewable energy market”, which she forecast would bring about cheaper power bills, as well as reduced reliance on fossil fuels.

These are small facilities, collectively the size (and cost) of a single normal-sized windfarm. But at the same time its a massive shift. Meridian wasn't expecting to do utility-scale solar farms for five years yet, and now they've been beaten to it. Its also a shift towards local generation, rather than relying on the national grid, which should provide some regional backup in the event of grid failure. And the joy of solar panels is that if you need some extra power, you can just add some more (it helps that they're building them in a way which also allows the land to be used for farming). Hopefully we'll be seeing a lot more of these in the future.