$100m ‘world-leading’ solar plant will be 50 times bigger than any in New Zealand

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New Zealand’s biggest solar power plant will produce enough electricity to power 30,000 homes, and allow planes to pull up and recharge.

The $100 million plant will cover the equivalent of 262 rugby fields at Christchurch Airport. The development is 50 times larger than any other solar farm currently operating in New Zealand. Alongside it will go green fuel production, data centres and vertical farming.

Announced on Wednesday, the whole precinct will be known as Kōwhai Park. It will be built on 400 hectares of airport land just west of the airport’s runways and terminal, and be scaled up over 30 years.

The Kōwhai Park site is owned by Environment Canterbury, and leased to Christchurch Airport.

Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel said the project would help secure a low carbon future for upcoming generations. “There is nothing else of this scale in New Zealand,” she said.

Freshly returned from the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow, Climate Change Minister James Shaw called it “a good news day for the climate”.

Airport chief executive Malcolm Johns said the project was about enabling the economy to “decarbonise at the fastest possible rate”.

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