Wind farm on hold till electricity demand flurries

The Turitea wind farm is unlikely to be built for at least four years.

Mighty River Power was granted consent for the 60-turbine development in the Palmerston North City Council-owned Turitea Reserve last month, after applying for a larger 131-turbine farm in 2008.

Lack of growth in demand for electricity over the past three years had pushed back by several years the economic viability of the $150 million project, MRP general manager for development Mark Trigg said in the company's recently-released annual report. "Our current assessment indicates viability in the second half of this decade."

The same applies to the proposed Puketoi wind farm, 32 kilometres east of Turitea.

Mighty River Power has lodged consents for the 53-turbine project at Puketoi with the Tararua District Council, Horizons Regional Council and city council. Submissions close next week.

Turitea provides a strategic link for the Puketoi proposal.

The proposed transmission line from the eastern ranges would come over the Tararua ridge to connect to the approved Turitea sub-station and transmission line to Linton.

The link involves a 2km extra length of transmission line and a handful of extra pylons on city council-owned and controlled land.

Mighty River Power has begun negotiations with the city council as landowner, and has also applied for resource consent for the extension.

Mr Trigg said Puketoi would give the company "some critical mass" for its investments in the area.

Wind development project manager John Worth said the goal in linking the wind farms was to reduce the number of transmission lines used.

So far 35 submissions have been received on the consents.

Decisions have not been made about when and where the hearings will be held.

Mighty River Power is optimistic the consent process will move ahead more smoothly than it did for Turitea.

The Turitea proposal was called in by Environment Minister Nick Smith in December 2008, in an attempt to streamline the process for what was deemed a nationally significant application.

Although hearings began in July, 2009, the Board of Inquiry did not issue its final decision until September this year.

Mr Worth said Mighty River Power had been planning Puketoi since 2007, and had been consulting the Tararua community and negotiating access agreements to the site with landowners.

"We think we get the best consultative, local process if it is run by the local council, whereas the call-in process can be more complex for submitters."

Manawatu Standard