More power to Central Canterbury

26 August 2022 at 3:17 pm

Orion and national power grid operator Transpower are to build a new $58m Grid Exit Point (GXP) and supporting infrastructure to meet record growth in Central Canterbury’s electricity demand.

The new GXP, to be built on 13-hectare parcel of land in rural Norwood, will transform high voltage electricity from Transpower’s national grid, down to voltages distributed by Orion to homes and businesses in the region.

There are currently two major 220kV-66kV GXPs in Orion’s network and the new Norwood GXP will increase Orion’s capacity to drawdown power from the national grid by 200MW, or 25 per cent.

Nigel Barbour, Orion Group Chief Executive, says the new GXP is once in 50-year investment in the region’s energy infrastructure, prompted by sustained growth in electricity demand.

“For the past 10 years, we’ve had sustained growth in the number of new customers connecting to our network. More than 4,100 additional homes and businesses joined the network in FY22 and there’s no sign of that letting up.

“More people and businesses are choosing electricity as their energy source of choice and we are seeing greater demand for electricity than ever before. This is accelerating as more heat pumps are being installed for residential use and businesses swap out coal-fired boilers for cleaner electricity to provide their process heat needs.  

“Aotearoa has also started its journey of de-carbonising our transport fleet and we are preparing to power big increases in the number of EVs charging at home and commercially.

“It’s an exciting time in Canterbury’s electrification journey and together with Transpower, Orion is proud to be a leading infrastructure provider central to our region’s future sustainability.”

Barbour says maintaining reliability and resilience are also key factors driving the build.

“Access to more power from the national grid gives us the headroom we need to maintain the very high levels of reliability and resilience people and businesses depend on.

“The new GXP allows us to free up capacity in other areas of the network and move load around more readily if needed.”

The new Norwood GXP will be a two-way pipe, capable of uploading as well as downloading power from the national grid.

“The national grid does the heavy lifting for local electricity supply and dovetails well with other local power sources such as solar which are more weather dependent.”

Transpower New Zealand Chief Executive, Alison Andrew says Orion’s increase in demand is a common theme across the country.

“We forecast electricity demand increasing nationally nearly 70% by 2050 to facilitate New Zealand’s move to a zero-carbon economy. So it’s a really busy time for us and indeed the entire industry.

“At a national level we’ve got a number of projects underway or in investigation to provide more capacity in our core network. At the same time, we’re facilitating new GXPs like Norwood as well as a multitude of new generation connections coming on stream.”

Consents have been granted and construction of two separate but adjacent Orion and Transpower substations and associated infrastructure begins this month with the new GXP expected to be commissioned by November 2023.

The two substations will collectively cover approximately 4 hectares of the rural site.

Turning the first sod of the new Orion Grid Exit Point are:  (l-r) Mark Ryall, Transpower General Manager Grid Delivery; Hon Dr Megan Woods, Minister of Energy & Resources, Minister of Housing, Minister for Building and Construction, Associate Minister of Finance and MP for Wigram; Steve Macdonald, Orion General Manager Electricity Network