Total Utilities Joins Lodestone Energy to Celebrate Grid-Scale Solar Farm Launch

23 April 2024

New Zealand’s first grid-scale solar generation plant was recently opened in Kaitaia by Lodestone Energy, and Total Utilities was delighted to be invited to the opening for an exclusive first look.

Lodestone Energy, a leading solar company in New Zealand, has launched the country’s first grid scale solar farm, Kohirā, in Kaitaia. They recently celebrated this milestone at the grand opening, and announced having raised a further $55 million for solar farm expansion.

The Kaitaia facility has more than 61,000 solar panels installed, and the farm will generate up to 56 gigawatt hours of electricity annually. At peak output, this can supply all of the Kaitaia region’s electricity requirements.

Pivotal Point in Energy Generation

Gary Holden, Managing Director of Lodestone Energy, said the occasion marked a pivotal point in New Zealand’s electricity market, with the company delivering the first grid-scale solar generation plant.

“As New Zealand’s largest solar installation to date and the first solar farm in New Zealand to bid into the electricity market, this is a crucial step forward in the future of energy generation.

“Many organisations were involved in delivering this project and learnings from Kaitaia are being used in the construction of our other sites, with Edgecumbe close to starting generation and Waiotahe construction on target to be generating by the end of the year.”

The site’s official name Kohirā was gifted by Te Rarawa. Kohirā translates to suncatcher in te reo Māori and reflects how Lodestone harnesses the energy of the sun to generate electricity.

The partnership with local iwi aligns with Lodestone’s commitment to work with tangata whenua to deliver solar projects that empower both the regions in which they operate.

Chris Hargreaves reflects on Lodestone’s solar achievement

Total Utilities’ Director, Chris Hargeaves, says he was honoured to be invited along to the official launch of Kohirā. “The incredible amount of work that went into this project was evident on the day.

“Four years of extremely hard work became a shining light in the Kaitaia region and a first for New Zealand. Our country needs dreamers, and they need doers, and Gary Holden along with the Lodestone team are both.”

Chris explained that Lodestone’s Chief Financial Officer, Chris Jewell, told a great story about how after they initially met with the local Iwi and were told the story of how Maui harnessed the sun, Lodestone bought copies of the book that illustrates the legend.

“When Lodestone visited their suppliers in the UK, China and Australia, they gave away copies of these books to the contacts that they met. One in particular still reads the book to his six year old son, and his son is dead set keen on coming to New Zealand so that he can meet Maui.”

Innovative Design and Sustainable Practices

Additionally, Kohirā boasts an innovative agri-voltaic design meaning the land can be used for both farming and solar energy generation simultaneously. Solar panels are installed above crops or pastures, allowing agricultural activities to continue while generating renewable energy.

This approach maximises land use efficiency and promotes sustainable agricultural practices by combining food production with renewable energy.

Attendees including Chris were lucky enough to see the design first hands – a feature that will be rolled out across other Lodestone solar farms.

The company is currently developing five solar farms in the North Island, and has confirmed plans for three more in the South Island.

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