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GREEN ENERGY Power Electronics wins order for large solar farm in New Zealand

| Author / Editor: Luke James / Johanna Erbacher

Marlborough in New Zealand not only produces some of the world’s best grapes, but it can also produce lots of clean, green energy. Now, a new project will see over 5,000 individual solar panels covering 10 acres of land there.

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As part of a new project in Marlborough, New Zealand, over 5,000 individual solar panels are now being installed over an area of 10 hectares.
As part of a new project in Marlborough, New Zealand, over 5,000 individual solar panels are now being installed over an area of 10 hectares.
(Source: gemeinfrei / Unsplash)

New Zealand has some of the world’s longest sunshine hours, particularly in Marlborough which receives an average of over 2,400 per year. Therefore, it seems like the most logical place to put New Zealand’s largest utility scale photovoltaic solar project.

Headed by renewable energy specialists Kea Energy Ltd, the new project will see the construction of a 1.85 MW utility scale solar farm located in the Wairau Valley in Marlborough. For the project, Kea Energy has selected Power Electronics International’s HMEK series of solar inverter platform. Now, after two years’ worth of research and design, construction has commenced in the plant and is expected to conclude sometime in Q4 2020 despite the current COVID-19 situation.

5,000 solar panels across 10 acres

Current estimations suggest that there is approximately 118 MW of photovoltaic generated electricity connected to the New Zealand power grid. However, the majority of this comes from low power domestic and commercial system.

The new 1.85 MW utility scale system will be the first of its kind in New Zealand for many reasons, namely because it will connect directly to the 11 kV Marlborough Lines Ltd medium voltage network and utilise centralised inverter power technology to drive down installation costs. It will also introduce leading or lagging reactive power to assist the network with voltage control and stability where required.

The project will see over 5,000 individual solar panels spread out across 10 acres of land. The panels will be installed on a single axis tracker mounting system to ensure optimal efficiency of each panel and also prevent shadowing, allowing for a higher density of panel installation per square metre. There will also be an added advantage of the panels being able to absorb light reflected off the ground because they are bifacial.

A proven platform

To date, the HEMK inverter platform already has an install base of thousands of units globally. It is a proven modular platform that enables customers to build their own solar inverters exactly to specification. For this project, Kea Energy Ltd has opted for a 2.25 MVA solar inverter with a low-to-medium voltage transformer and medium voltage switchgear, all on a skid mounted platform.

The HEMK platform is capable of operating as a lone inverter, with several models ranging from 2.125 MVA to 3.8 MVA. It can also operate with other units of HEMK for higher power applications.

“The Power Electronics HEMK solar inverter design is very innovative” states Kea Energy managing director, Campbell McMath. “It combines the benefits of a centralized inverter, particularly with regards to the efficiencies of installation cost, and with six field replaceable inverter modules the benefits of a string inverter as well”.

Despite being highly technical, the project will still make use of an element of “Kiwiana” in its design—sheep will be used to graze the grass under the solar panels.

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