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Next step for solar project

NZ Clean Energy [NZCE] has lodged a resource consent for its proposed 147 hectare SH2 Waingawa solar farm with Carterton District Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council.

NZCE selected a site in Waingawa boarding SH2 south of Masterton for its proximity to a grid connection, high levels of solar irradiation, and land qualities.

The proposal for 166,000 solar panels covering 138 hectares of the site could generate enough electricity to supply an estimated 35,000 homes.

NZCE senior planner Tracey Morse said NZCE anticipates Carterton District Council’s [CDC] decision later this year, but the timing depends on the council’s s95 notification determinations.

“So far, we are feeling positive about the process and how we’re tracking in it,” she said.

NZCE had engaged in “constructive” meetings and discussions with the CDC planning team before lodging its resource consent and is in the process of responding to further information requests, Morse said.

“We believe that we have captured the matters of potential concern that they raised during those meetings within our application.”

NZCE aims to begin construction within a year of achieving resource consent approval.

Morse said this will be “subject to a positive outcome from the resource consent process” and several other separate processes, including Transpower approval for connection to the national grid.

“While this project is near the top of their list of projects to assess, they have a single team responsible for assessing and processing all new connections to the national grid for the whole country.”

The project has an approximate construction timeframe of 12–18 months, and it’s hoped to have the solar farm fully constructed and online sometime between late 2026 and mid-2027, Morse said.

Previously, NZCE lodged with the CDC and GWRC because the company was still negotiating its site lease with the landowner when the timeframe to qualify for the existing fast-track process under the now-obsolete Natural and Built Environment Act ended.

Morse said NZCE was never in a position to consider the suitability of either fast-track process for its project, and the only viable consenting pathway was to follow the standard lodgement process with local authorities.

NZCE had consulted with Masterton District Council, mainly about the proximity of its project to Hood Aerodrome, but the Waingawa River is the border between the two councils.

According to NZCE director Harry Simpson, the company has “a number of shareholders, but the majority shareholder is Pelion Green Future, which is dedicated to investing in renewable energy projects across the world”.

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