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‘World leading’ energy park to be built at Christchurch Airport


Christchurch Airport is committing 400 hectares of its Harewood campus to Kōwhai Park – a new platform for generating renewable energy at scale to enable businesses to transition away from fossil fuels.

The pioneering project was launched with New Zealand’s Energy Minister, Megan Woods; Climate Change Minister, James Shaw; and Christchurch mayor, Lianne Dalziel, planting two kōwhai trees on its site, next to the century old kōwhai the park is named after.

The Park will scale up over the next 30 years and Phase One will deliver a 220-hectare solar array capable of generating 150 megawatts of electricity (enough to power 30,000 homes, or around 20% of Christchurch’s current residential electricity use) on the airport campus.

This will support future development of green fuel production for land and air transport, green data centres and green vertical farming.

Australian renewable energy fund, Solar Bay, is committing $100 million to the development of Phase One. Investment director Jack Sherratt says New Zealanders can be extremely proud of Christchurch Airport’s initiative.

“There is nothing else like this in New Zealand – it’s innovative, far ahead of its time and absolutely world-leading in every sense,” said Sherratt. “The Phase One solar array is 50 times larger than any existing array in the country – and it’s just the beginning. This will accelerate Canterbury’s low carbon future.”

The gateway’s chief executive, Malcolm Johns, says Kōwhai Park is part of the airport’s plan to become climate positive over the coming decade and to maintain its world leading position on sustainability.

“Over the past decade, our team has systematically decarbonised our business. We’ve reduced 85% of our direct emissions and we’re on track to be carbon zero well before the city’s goal of 2030 and New Zealand’s goal of 2050.

“We want to enable the rest of the economy to decarbonise at the fastest possible rate. That is what Kōwhai Park is about.”

Johns insists that the green energy delivered by Kōwhai Park will help other businesses transition.

He noted: “As we decarbonise, demand on our renewable energy supply is expected to increase by 68%. Kōwhai Park will, over time, help meet that additional demand and provide a resilient supply of renewable energy Canterbury and New Zealand can rely on.

“It will also assist aviation to decarbonise and decouple from fossil fuels. In New Zealand we’re likely to see both electric and hydrogen-fuelled planes on our domestic routes over the next few decades. Kōwhai Park can support this transition at Christchurch.”

Sherratt noted: “It’s in close proximity to New Zealand’s second largest city, the Canterbury plains are flat and sunny, and the park has Orion’s lines network (supplying Christchurch) on one side and Transpower’s national grid pylons on the other. It’s the ultimate site.”

Johns is quick to point out that Kōwhai Park is beyond just solar and is a platform of scale to enable multi-sector energy transition in Canterbury and nationally over many decades.

“The airport will be making available long term leases at Kowhai Park to both large and small organisations looking for a site for a renewable energy generation, storage and green fuels,” he said.

“We will be making other land available for green data centres and green vertical farming operators to tap the renewable energy Kowhai Park will offer. If 400 hectares isn’t ultimately enough, we have options across the campus to double this footprint over time.”


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