Cut wind farm gets go-ahead

04:06, Sep 07 2011
Wind turbines
Mighty River Power's eleventh-hour request for 12 extra turbines has been declined.

The Turitea Wind Farm saga is over, ending seven years of wrangling, but the 60-turbine project may never be built.

A board of inquiry appointed by the Government issued its final decision yesterday, permitting the wind farm near Palmerston North, but rejecting Mighty River Power's eleventh-hour request for 12 extra turbines.

Mighty River Power has not decided if and when it will go ahead with a project half the size of what was initially envisaged. A spokesperson said it would take time to assess the implications of the ruling, and to reach a decision on the likely timing of the project, given current electricity demand growth.

"We are disappointed the request to reinstate 12 turbines from our original application has not been upheld, as these would have had a significant positive effect on the economics, efficiency and overall sustainability of the project," the spokesperson said.

The board of inquiry, chaired by Environment Court judge Shonagh Kenderdine, said the economic viability of the reduced project was an issue for MRP, not the board.

Its role was to deal with the environmental effects. Reducing the project's impact on the Tararua skyline viewed from central Palmerston North was a key reason for limiting the number of turbine sites.

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MRP had argued that the board should consider the economics.

"We do not agree," the commissioners said in their final decision, although it acknowledged it was "not surprising" MRP wanted to maximise the size of the wind farm to capture as much of the wind resource as it could.

The board said it understood the alarm expressed by some submitters when MRP asked for hearings to be resumed to consider the reinstatement of a dozen more turbines than the draft report indicated would be granted consent.

The board ruled that the process should not become one of "endless negotiation". It declared the hearings were over, declined the reinstatement, and produced a final decision substantially the same as the draft.

MRP said although disappointed, it was pleased the "robust" process had reached a conclusion. The decision provided a future generation development "option", and meant a world-class wind resource would be available for development as market conditions changed.

Kahuterawa Rd resident and submitter Helen Harker said she was disappointed the project got the go-ahead but relieved that "at least they are not getting more reinstated".

She was "not too pleased" that MRP had been given 10 years to make a start, instead of five, as the extended period of uncertainty would be hard to live with.

Another opponent, Alison Mildon, said the 60 turbines were "60 too many".

She said residents had done the best they could to stop the project, and had at least ended up with something less than what MRP first proposed – 122 turbines when the hearing started, and 104 after a redesign.

Former Palmerston North mayoral candidate Michael Feyen said he was disappointed with the decision, but did not expect anything different.

"Manawatu [Tararuas] are simply a dumping ground for government-owned companies to obtain carbon credit dollars, and in the process wreck our own environment.

"As an area we have already done our bit for the supply of power to the national grid."

Manawatu Standard