Solar farm company Lightyears Solar has received a significant boost, with $15 million from NZGIF to help finance construction of a pipeline of consented, ground-mounted solar farm projects.
Lightyears Solar has recently completed the construction of their first solar farm in Waiuku, South Auckland, with a 2.4 MW farm that is the largest agrivoltaic and tracked solar farm in New Zealand. More projects are in the pipeline, including a 7 MW solar farm in Ashburton and a 4.5 MW solar farm in Wairarapa. They focus on mid-size, dual use solar, which allows for productive agriculture to continue beneath solar panels. The finance from NZGIF will help Lightyears Solar get their future farms built and comes in the form of a long-term debt facility.
“NZGIF plays a significant role for us, in terms of debt finance for our solar farm construction. As our solar farms are smaller in scale, NZGIF has filled the project finance role traditionally taken by large commercial banks and they support and understand what we are doing, and what our farms offer in terms of carbon abatement and reduced emissions,” says Matt Shanks, Lightyears Solar co-founder and head of development.
“Our solar farms will produce clean energy and offset electricity produced using fossil fuels, contributing to New Zealand’s goal to become carbon neutral. While some of the power produced will make its way back to the national grid, we expect much of the electricity to be consumed by the communities who live close to our solar farms, improving the renewable proportion of the local power supply.
“We’re proud to be providing clean, low-cost energy into the New Zealand grid, which will help to alleviate energy poverty and ultimately lower the cost of energy to homes and businesses in New Zealand, and with NZGIF, we are also deploying New Zealand capital to achieve this.”
Jason Patrick, NZGIF Chief Investment Officer, said “Lightyears differentiates itself by developing multiple small to medium-sized solar farms designed to integrate into existing distribution networks. The Lightyears Solar approach, and the market segment they serve, is an attractive opportunity for us and should be an important part of New Zealand’s decarbonisation.”
Lightyears’ Waiuku Solar Farm has approximately 3700 panels over 3ha of farmland, providing 2.4 MW of power to the local grid. This is enough to power approximately 500 homes. Most of the panels are on a tracking system, allowing them to follow the sun during the day and capture as much energy as possible. The tracking solar system also works better with pasture growth and animal grazing than traditional fixed mounted systems. The location is part of a larger working farm, and small animals like pigs and young calves will share the paddocks with the solar panels, allowing for continued agricultural productivity alongside clean energy generation.
Electricity retailer Prime Energy has partnered with Lightyears Solar to purchase the output from the solar farms under a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA). Prime Energy specialises in supply to commercial customers, who have a greater need for daytime energy.
Waiuku Solar Farm has been constructed by McKay Electrical, a leading New Zealand electrical contractor, who were involved throughout the project, from electrical design through to installation and commissioning.
"We’re pleased to see the project come to fruition, and very proud that we could play a role in ensuring its success, through providing our expertise in the renewable energy sector,” says McKay’s Renewables Manager, Lauren Faithfull.
The solar farm construction and testing is complete, with commissioning expected by the end of September.
About Lightyears Solar
Lightyears Solar is a New Zealand owned and operated company developing and constructing ground-mounted, utility-scale and high-quality solar farm generation assets connected to New Zealand’s electrical distribution networks. Their team has experience in large-scale solar and complex construction projects and their solar farms support the electrification and decarbonisation of industrial and transport energy, to align with New Zealand’s carbon zero goals. The company aims to support productive agriculture via dual use farm design. For more, see www.lightyearssolar.co.nz.