New Edgecumbe solar farm underway

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Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa have officially blessed the Bay of Plenty’s newest solar farm, near Edgecumbe, and gifted the name ‘Omeheu’ in recognition of the how the area sustained the people of Ngāti Awa for generations.

Omeheu solar farm will use the sun’s energy to generate approximately 41 GWh of electricity per year, which is enough electricity to power over 5,800 homes.

The 30ha solar farm site is a joint venture being developed by Far North Solar Farm and Aquila Clean Energy Asia Pacific.

Far North Solar Farm director Richard Homewood says early works will start soon on the site with construction due to follow later in the year.

“We tautoko Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa’s view that Omeheu solar farm fits with the sustainability korero which is historical to the area. Generating renewable energy is the future of the electricity market in New Zealand and this is something that we’re proud to be involved in.”

The joint venture was also committed to supporting Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa’s vision of sustainability and higher education by supporting two rangatahi from the iwi with electrical apprenticeships aimed at establishing careers in the field of energy.

The partnership will also install solar panels on the globally recognised Ngāti Awa marae in Whakatane, Te Manuka Tūtahi.

“We have been impressed with the approach of the developers and their appreciation of tikanga and kawa and what that means to us as kaitiaki of our rohe,” Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa CEO Reuben Araroa says. “We recognised the opportunity to partner with an organisation that is not only willing to reciprocate through material supply but more importantly to share their knowledge, expertise and to support higher education of our rangatahi.”

Omeheu solar farm will consist of approximately 63,000 solar panels that will be mounted in rows with a maximum height of 1.63m. Gaps between the panels and rows will allow rain to run off onto the whenua.

The perimeter of the solar farm will be fenced and planted with native trees which will screen the farm from most viewpoints over time so the development will have minimal long-term visual impact.

The partnership has five solar farms currently consented which are part of a wider national development portfolio of 11 sites which, when completed, will equate to 1.4GW or 14.3% of New Zealand’s current total operational electricity production capacity, which was 9.79GW in 2022.

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