Media Release - 29 August 2022

Helios Energy solar development update

Helios Energy today provided an update of its national grid-scale solar development programme, confirming the first two priority developments in its project pipeline.

Helios is a collaboration of renewable energy developers that has been developing a pipeline of high-quality, grid-connected solar developments across New Zealand over the last two years.

Helios director, Jason McDonald, said the company’s first development would be an approximately 115-megawatt project, located to the north-east of Transpower’s Edgecumbe substation, near Whakatāne.

He said the project – enough to generate enough clean electricity for approximately 25,000 homes – has been under active investigation for more than two years. Helios has secured the exclusive right to lease 165 hectares of land for the project.

“With high sunshine hours, solar is a perfect fit for the region and for leading New Zealand’s transition towards a clean energy, low carbon economy. Solar energy is reliable, uses very little water, produces no emissions, makes very little noise, is quick to construct and can generate large volumes of the lowest cost electricity currently available,” he said.

“The Edgecumbe project will be a high-quality development that is being carefully designed to minimise visual impacts. Solar has the lowest profile and visual impact of any renewable energy technology and can be effectively screened with established native planting.

“Additionally, the land will remain in agriculture and continue to be grazed by sheep around and under the panels. The land can be quickly returned to its original state at the end of the project’s life.”

There will be significant economic benefits for local communities over the 12-month construction period, through using local contractors, creating training opportunities and accommodating specialists from outside the region.

Jason McDonald said the project was the first grid-scale solar development in the country to receive contracted permission to connect to the national grid. He thanked Transpower for the way it had worked closely with Helios to provide the grid connection agreement, noting it was significant for both parties.

Transpower General Manager, Customer and Strategy, Chantelle Bramley said the agreement was the first of many to come as New Zealand moves towards electrification of the economy as part of lower carbon future.

“The signing of our first grid connection agreement with a solar developer is a positive milestone for New Zealand’s energy future. We congratulate Helios and we look forward to working with them as the project comes to fruition. Transpower has a large pipeline of connection enquiries, and we expect to sign many more connection agreements for renewable energy projects as New Zealand moves to decarbonise its economy.”

Helios is currently developing a resource consent application which it expects to file with the District Council over the coming months.

Jason McDonald said the company was also investigating the potential for a project of up to 100-megawatts to the south of Greytown in the Wairarapa and was beginning to engage with local stakeholders on the project.

He said Helios had secured an exclusive right to lease the required land from an established Greytown farming family and was making good progress on connecting the project to the local electricity network. He said the site was already well screened from neighbours and the road with shelterbelts and, with additional planting, could be developed without impacting the unique character of Greytown.

“We’re in earlier stages of investigation with the Wairarapa site and are looking forward to discussing the project, and how the benefits of the project to the region might be maximised, with the local community.”

Jason McDonald said the company is also making good progress on a range of other potential developments across the North Island and the central and lower South Island.

Jonathan Hill: 021 440 090