North Wellington wind farm will be built

04:20, Jun 15 2012
Ohariu Valley wind farm
PLANS: Mill Creek wind farm.

Meridian has confirmed it will soon begin work on Mill Creek, the 26 turbine wind farm just north of West Wind in the Ohariu Valley.

In a statement, chief executive Mark Binns said the time was right for the $169 million project.

''We have a strong pipeline of development options in New Zealand. Mill Creek will make a valuable contribution to our renewable generation portfolio and is another example of renewable energy meeting the country's future energy needs.''

Preparatory civil works will start in the next two months with full power expected mid-2014, Meridian said.

Mill Creek is virtually a northern extension of West Wind, the 142-megawatt wind farm in Makara, west of Wellington.

Meridian was given resource consent in 2009 for a much smaller project capable of generating 60 megawatts, enough to power 30,000 homes.

The consent was upheld by the Environment Court last August after an appeal by affected residents.

Ohariu Valley Preservation Society president Siobhan Lilley said this week that she had been given no notice that a decision was imminent.

The group had run out of avenues to fight the project. But its opposition remained as strong as ever, with the turbines "much too close" to residents' homes.

The shape of the hills around Makara meant some people were constantly impacted by the noise of the West Wind turbines, while others were unaffected, Mrs Lilley said.

This had sparked uncertainty among those close to the proposed site for Mill Creek.

"A lot of people are feeling it's a bit like Russian roulette, whether they're going to be hugely impacted by the noise or not."

Today's announcement was timed to fall on Global Wind Day.

Eric Pyle chief executive of the New Zealand Wind Energy Association, welcomed the announcement.


"From the point of view of an investor, the major advantages of wind farms are that they can be built quickly and sized to fit both the developer’s strategy and market requirements," said Mr Pyle. "This means we get the right amount of generation, in the right place at the right time."

Mr Binns, who joined Meridian as chief executive in January, said despite there being little growth in demand for electricity in New Zealand, several factors were working in Mill Creek's favour.

Its proximity to West Wind gave the company a detailed understanding of the area's wind patterns, Mr Binns said, while turbine prices had plunged as a result of falling demand in Europe and a strong New Zealand dollar.

Meridian's rivals say the electricity market is saturated with generation capacity and that major projects are not needed until the economy grows and demand is boosted.

Late on Monday night Genesis Energy was given approval to build the massive Castle Hill wind farm, 20 kilometres northeast of Masterton, but on a smaller scale than the 860 megawatts it applied for.

The original application was for turbines up to 155 metres high and the wind farm was set to be the biggest in the southern hemisphere.

Contact Hamish Rutherford
Business reporter
Twitter: @oneforthedr

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