Greenies prepared to back wind farm

JAMES WEIR
Last updated 05:00 18/11/2010
FAN FANS: Visitors inspect  a Windflow 500 turbine at Gebbies Pass on Banks Peninsula  during an open day. The turbine is the model the company hopes to sell to Scottish farmers.
RICHARD MOREHAM
FAN FANS: Visitors inspect a Windflow 500 turbine at Gebbies Pass on Banks Peninsula during an open day. The turbine is the model the company hopes to sell to Scottish farmers.

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Wind turbine maker Windflow Technology still hopes to see a wind farm built at Long Gully, near Wellington, with a community group trying to raise money to kick-start the project, which is on hold.

The 25-wind turbine project was left in Windflow's hands after cornerstone shareholder Mighty River Power pulled out of the $30 million project in the middle of the year.

However, the community group is looking to initially raise enough for just one turbine for about $1.5m, as a first stage.

The idea is being promoted by regional councillor Paul Bruce, a meteorologist and a member of the Green Party. The group is based in the suburb of Brooklyn, near the wind farm site.

It is aiming for small investments of up to $5000 each from people in the city, as an alternative to buying their own micro-turbines.

"There is considerable enthusiasm from Wellingtonians to be carbon-neutral," Mr Bruce said.

Windflow is trying to raise $5.4m to help in its plans to sell turbines in Scotland, where it has had plenty of interest but no firm sales.

Speaking in Wellington yesterday, Windflow chief executive Geoff Henderson said they were still talking to Mighty River Power about power prices from Long Gully, as well as the community group, "which is keen to develop that as a wind farm".

However, the value of electricity on the wholesale market was "really low" because of an oversupply of generation.

"So [Long Gully] may not go ahead in the short term, but we are very confident it will go ahead in the medium term," he said.

Windflow had not yet been able to get a power price agreement with Mighty River for Long Gully "that makes the project fly", Mr Henderson said.

Mighty River owns 20 per cent of Windflow.

However, there were much better opportunities in Britain, where power prices were "five to 10 times what you can get in New Zealand. So we are focusing on Britain," Mr Henderson said.

British government incentives introduced this year meant there was a "compelling incentive" for 500 kilowatt turbines, which Windflow produced and aimed to sell to Scottish farmers. The turbines are big enough to power about 200 homes, so most of the power would be sold to the grid.

Turbine owners would be able to sell into the grid at about 22 pence a kilowatt hour, equal to about NZ45 cents. That is about 10 times the price Te Rere Hau has been earning in the Tararua Ranges in the past couple of years, Mr Henderson said. Windflow supplied Te Rere Hau's 65 turbines.

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As of this month, there had been 370 inquiries by Scottish farmers into the Windflow turbines, with more than 100 site surveys carried out. Of those, 29 had paid a deposit of 10,000 covering the costs of preparing planning applications. Each turbine would sell for about $1.23m, with a $250,000 contribution to gross profit for each sold, which was much higher than the gross profit in New Zealand.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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