Nearly two million solar panels fast-tracked

Energy and Resources Environment

Nine fast-tracked solar power projects could generate two and half times the output of Clyde Dam, with nearly two million solar panels so far referred for consent.

“Fast-tracking renewable energy generation helps to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and cut our carbon emissions,” Environment Minister David Parker said.

“Nine solar panel projects, comprising nearly 1.9 million panels, have now been referred for fast track approval since 2020 under the COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act.

“These projects can proceed faster, provided they meet the normal environmental tests as determined by expert consenting panels.

“If approved, the nine solar projects will add 1,147 megawatts of power to the national grid at peak output – almost three times the output of the 432 Mw Clyde Dam.

“Fast-track was originally intended as a temporary measure, but its success means that the process will be soon become permanent. The Natural and Built Environment Bill, to be passed this term, will provide a fast-track pathway for infrastructure and regionally significant housing projects.”

Energy Minister Megan Woods says backing development for renewable electricity generation and transmission helps New Zealand meet its domestic and international carbon emission targets.

“Solar energy helps keep household power bills lower and, like all renewable electricity development, builds resilience into our energy network.”

The Government’s goals are for New Zealand’s total electricity needs to be met 100 per cent by renewable energy by 2030, and for the country to achieve net zero carbon emissions annually by 2050.

“Delivery of fast-track referral has been a key part of the Government’s strategy to accelerate economic recovery and boost jobs, while reducing emissions. If approved, these nine renewable solar projects could create up to 2,300 construction jobs,” Megan Woods says. 

In June, fast-track referrals were agreed for Harmony Energy Solar Ltd’s projects near Marton, Opunake and Carterton, and Energy Farms Ltd’s projects near Rangitikei and Taranaki. They would involve large-scale solar investment in five North Island regions, adding power from about 829,000 solar panels to the national grid.

In April, the Government referred the Rangiriri Solar Farm Project and Waerenga Solar Farm Project for fast-track approval. These two projects could displace about 220 million kilograms or more of New Zealand’s CO2 emissions from fossil fuel electricity generation each year.