Grid-scale solar could unlock new ways for consumers to ensure they are using renewable and clean energy, similar to people with their own panels installed.
Pulse Energy will buy the generation from Lodestone Energy’s Kaitaia site and develop a retail electricity offer based on its production. The Far North solar farm is currently under construction and expected to be operational later next year.
Details of the retail offer are yet to be released, but Lodestone Managing Director Gary Holden says the firm selected Pulse because of its experience in creating "innovative new offers in the residential market". In a statement, he says Pulse will have access to the generation data from the site's production.
"Pulse can manage the complexities of branding, manage large volumes of half-hourly solar production data and has an innovative approach to billing that is required for this idea."
Holden is excited to see how quickly New Zealanders embrace the 'virtual solar rooftop' concept, using power from a sunny location to supply their homes and small businesses.
"Since inception, Lodestone’s ambition has been to enable ways for consumers to benefit from grid-scale solar."
Pulse Chief Executive Sharnie Warren says the agreement is the "most effective way to accelerate production of solar energy in the generation market."
"Grid-scale solar is lower cost than traditional rooftop solar – so more consumers will be able to take advantage of this fantastic renewable energy source."
Warren says Lodestone's significant pipeline of solar farms is necessary for developing a nationwide solar offer.
"We're looking forward to our customers increasingly enjoying the benefit of grid-scale solar as more farms come online in the future."
Greener retail options
Meridian Energy and Mercury are both 100 per cent renewable gentailers, operating New Zealand's two largest hydro systems, plus wind farms. Mercury also has five geothermal plants.
Several independent electricity retailers already provide different types of renewable-backed energy options.
Toitū-certified Ecotricity contracts electricity sourced from the Monowai, Roaring Meg, Teviot hydro dams, the Flat Hill Wind Farm and its solar customers.
Business owners can choose Prime Energy’s Toitū-certified option that also directly contracts generation from emissions-audited generators.
Other lower-carbon retail options include Flick Electric – also certified by Toitū - and Electric Kiwi. These retailers use pricing and information about the current generation mix to encourage customers to shift their power use to cheaper off-peak times when more renewable power is available.
Lodestone gets to work
Lodestone is currently beginning work on the first of five grid-scale solar farms it plans to have completed by the end of 2024.
On November 21, it announced all the solar equipment for its 62 GWh Kaitaia Solar Farm has been ordered, and work has begun. The planned 80,000 panels will connect to the Top Energy distribution network around mid-2023.
Earlier in the month, it announced it had secured a connection agreement with grid-operator Transpower for its 87 GWh Waitohe site near Whakatane. Its Dargaville, Edgecumbe, and Whitianga sites will export to the Northpower, Horizon and Powerco distribution networks, respectively.
Holden says Lodestone all five will be constructed and commissioned over the next 30 months.
The largest site – Lodestone One – will be a 120 GWh solar farm near Dargaville, with plans to install 125,000 panels.
Holden says Lodestone is using New Zealand companies for the onsite work, creating job opportunities for local people.
"Our goal is to be the leader in grid-scale solar in New Zealand, and these first solar farms are just the beginning. We see many more solar farms and the addition of battery storage as key planks moving Aotearoa towards becoming carbon neutral."