Planned wind farm would be biggest

KIRAN CHUG
Last updated 05:00 02/04/2011

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Reaching as high as 155 metres in the air, up to 286 turbines could be built across swaths of Wairarapa land to create the country's biggest wind farm.

Genesis Energy has unveiled its Castle Hill Wind Project, which contains six pockets of land earmarked for turbines spanning more than 30,000 hectares.

The site spreads over land 20km east of Eketahuna and Pahiatua, 20km northeast of Masterton, and 15km west of the Wairarapa coast.

The company is hoping to lodge consents for the project this year, but has taken its plans to the community first.

Spokesman Richard Gordon said the company was likely to apply for consents for the maximum size and number of turbines it was believed the site could accommodate, but actual decisions on figures would be made later.

"We're not saying we're definitely going to build this. It's about creating another option."

Genesis has decided not to push ahead with its proposed Awhitu wind farm near Auckland, despite gaining resource consent and winning an Environment Court appeal. The company decided that project was not viable – but Mr Gordon said the Castle Hill project was very different. On an international scale, it gained the highest classification for its wind potential. "We're putting a lot of resources into this one. It's a very exciting big project for us."

The company has agreements with 29 landowners to seek consents but will await feedback from this weekend's consultation sessions before going further.

Wind Energy Association chief executive Fraser Clark said the project was significant by any country's standards. Wind farms generate about 606 megawatts of energy each year, but Genesis's proposal would have a capacity ranging from 429MW to 858MW.

However, Mr Clark said Genesis would have to find a balance between its plans and the community's wishes. A farm with 286 turbines would be the largest in New Zealand, and no turbines as high as 155m were installed in this country at present.

Meridian's Project Hayes, which was publicly notified in 2006 and was due to go back to the Environment Court, would have generated up to 630MW from less than 200 turbines.

Mr Gordon said Genesis had involved the community with its plans, because it believed that by consulting early it was possible to deal with any issues.

Meanwhile, Meridian's plans for its Martinborough Nga Waka a Kupe project, or the canoes of Kupe, are still on hold.

The proposed 45 turbines, which are 130 to 145m high, met heavy opposition last year and the company's wind technical strategy manager Paul Botha said yesterday Meridian was still waiting for the outcome of a study into Wairarapa landscapes.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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