Genesis Energy is to develop and build the country's biggest solar power farm in Canterbury, with power set to start flowing next year.
The company and its joint venture partner, FRV Australia, have secured site near Lauriston on the Canterbury Plains, about an hour south of Christchurch, where it will build a 90ha solar farm will have about 80,000 solar panels, generating approximately 80 GWh a year - enough to power close to 10,000 houses.
Genesis's general manager of commercial development, Craig Brown, said the site met the criteria for a successful solar project.
"The combination of things you look for in developing solar projects is obviously good sunlight hours proximity to the grid," he said.
"It's really important, suitable flatland that makes it easy construction, and Lauriston ticked all those boxes for us."
Lauriston was also close to the local electricity network run by EA Networks, which catered for high irrigation demand from cropping farmers during summer, Brown said.
"The peak electricity demand for the local network is actually over summer when all the irrigation load comes on, which correlates really well with the production output of the solar farm.
"So it has matched really well in terms of the solar development and the local demand."
The Lauriston development is Genesis's first foray into solar, although it has been pursuing a strategy of increasing its renewable electricity generation to counter its significant gas and coal fired generation from Huntly.
It has plans to develop up to 500 MW of solar over the next few years, and Brown expected there would be further announcements this year, as part of its Future-gen strategy to develop 2650 GWh of new renewable generation by 2030.
The project, which has been developed by British based Hive Energy, is expected to cost around $70 million, and comes with the bonus that sheep will be grazed under the panels as well.