15 Dec 2021

Meridian Energy to build solar farm next to Marsden Point refinery

7:24 pm on 15 December 2021

Meridian Energy is to build a solar farm on 105 hectares next to the Marsden Point refinery, near Whangarei.

Solar energy

File photo: Solar energy Photo: RNZ

The company said the power plant would improve the stability of the national grid, reduce the chance of network outages and allow more electricity to flow north from South Island generators.

The Ruakaka Energy Park will house a battery energy storage system (BESS) with a capacity of at least 100 megawatts (MW), as well as a utility-scale solar farm.

Meridian's Head of Renewable Development Rebecca Knott said the development supported the country's transition to 100 percent renewable energy and will reduce the reliance on gas as a backup at peak times.

"Aotearoa is moving to a fully renewable electricity system, which means generation will be made up of more intermittent sources like wind and solar," she said.

"During periods of peak demand when there is little sun or wind, we will need stored energy that can be dispatched quickly."

She said new battery technology can meet that challenge by delivering power when needed for short periods.

"The BESS is the first of many we intend to build which will have the capacity to supply instantaneous power to the grid, and enable more electricity to flow from renewable generators in the South Island over the Cook Strait cable."

The solar farm will have the capacity to supply power for 15,000 households and will be constructed once the BESS is up and running.

"We're currently talking to iwi and other community stakeholders about our plans for the site, and undertaking ecological and geotechnical site assessments as part of our due diligence," Knott said.

Meridian said it will not know how much the plant will cost to build, until the project goes out to tender in the first quarter of the new year.

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