$35m Northland solar farm to power all retirement village company’s sites

An impression of what a $35 million solar farm being built on land at Maungaturoto will look like.

A national retirement village company has partnered with a renewable energy fund to build a $35 million solar farm in Northland to power its properties across the country.

It’s the latest in a stream of plans announced for solar farms in Northland.

Ryman Healthcare, which operates Jane Mander Retirement Village in Whangārei, has signed an agreement with renewable energy fund Solar Bay to develop a solar farm in Northland to supply power in a first for the retirement industry.

The Northland solar farm to be built at Maungaturoto, 64km south of Whangārei, will sell power exclusively to Ryman Healthcare for its 12,000 residents living in 38 villages across New Zealand.


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The solar farm will be built, owned and operated by Solar Bay on a site near Maungaturoto, and the 29.94 million kWh of energy it produces each year will be fed directly into the national grid in Northland, taking pressure off the system.

Under the exclusive agreement, Ryman will be the new solar farm’s only customer, giving Solar Bay a guaranteed buyer for all its renewable energy production for the next 10 years. The farm will save an estimated 3294 tonnes of carbon a year, Ryman’s NZ chief executive Cheyne Chalmers said.

The company said it’s cheaper to set up the solar farm than retrofit solar panels to buildings in its villages.

‘’The deal means we don’t have to retrofit solar panels across our villages – we have a purpose-built solar farm built in exactly the right place for the [national] grid, and we buy the equivalent power. So it saves us money, gives us certainty, and it gave Solar Bay a single customer for 10 years and certainty it needed to push the button on the project.’’


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The deal is “sleeved” by electricity generator and retailer Mercury – the electricity firm will ensure a reliable supply to Ryman’s villages, sending extra electricity when solar output is low, and also buying the farm’s solar output above what the company needs if output is high.

Ryman buys the power it needs for village operations at a guaranteed price through a long-term supply agreement with both Solar Bay and Mercury, Chalmers said.

She said the deal fitted with Ryman’s plans to be as sustainable as possible in New Zealand.

“We’re excited about working with Solar Bay on this project because not only will it make our village operations more sustainable, and it will also take pressure off the national grid north of Auckland,’’ Chalmers said.

The electricity produced will go into the grid to be used where it is needed, but having a guaranteed single buyer means Solar Bay can proceed with certainty and will be a major boost to renewable energy generation in New Zealand.

Solar Bay is a privately-funded $300m sustainable energy investor based in Sydney. It invests in sustainable energy projects in Australia and New Zealand.

The farm has the potential capacity to generate all the power used annually by Ryman’s villages.

“This arrangement means that new renewable generation from independent generators like Solar Bay can supply customers with reliable, renewable electricity. Ryman is a long-standing Mercury customer, and we were very happy to work together with them in this innovative way to enable them to have the renewable electricity supply they wanted for their business,” Mercury’s GM Portfolio Phil Gibson said.

Other solar farms planned for Northland:

  • Work began in December near Kaitaia to build one of New Zealand’s biggest solar power stations. Lodestone Energy started groundwork at the “solar farm” at Gill Rd, about 3km northwest of Kaitaia, and power is expected to start flowing in the third quarter of 2023. Once complete it’s expected to generate 55GWh a year.
  • Far North Solar Farms also plans a solar power station in Pukenui, about 50km north of Kaitaia, with 12ha of panels producing 16MW at peak output. It is already consented.
  • Channel Infrastructure may get a 125MW solar farm built on land it owns at Marsden Pt.
  • Lodestone is also planning a solar farm near Dargaville.


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