Turbine noise debated

23:00, Oct 28 2012

Residents frustrated by wind farm noise in the Tararua Range are negotiating with the company that owns the turbines the Environment Court has ruled are too loud.

Palmerston North City Council has held talks between the residents and NZ Windfarms Ltd, which wants to sell the 97-turbine Te Rere Hau wind farm ruled too noisy by the court in July.

Pahiatua Track resident Lee Huffman said the company had offered to monitor turbine noise levels, which could prove a win for residents.

"You could not have a better group of people trying to find some solutions because this has been going on for years for us. There would have been a lot of people who would have said this is too much, but we have kept striving."

However, the noise problems from the turbines had not been remedied since the wind farm was found in breach of its resource consent, Dr Huffman said.

She described the persistent noise that continued to filter into her home daily.

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"It can be described as a roar like a train or an airplane - like a train that never arrives . . . then there's the "whoosh" sounds.

"Then there's the motor grinding and the whine - they are very distinct sounds and because you are exposed to them all the time, you just pick them up."

NZ Windfarms chief executive Chris Sadler said the company aimed to ensure noise levels were within residents' expectations.

"We are working with them and it's obviously a process relatively fraught with emotion, however we're trying to find a way that will work for the community long-term."

Mr Sadler said the noise that frustrated residents was caused by turbines operating at slower speeds.

"Any operational changes affect revenue.

"The [noise] that is a problem is at the low end of the wind scale, so that will not have a great effect on revenue."

However, the company will push forward with its appeal against the Environment Court decision, scheduled to be heard in February.

It is also still seeking a buyer for Te Rere Hau, Mr Sadler confirmed. The company reported a net loss of $24.6 million for the past financial year, despite earning about $8.3m in electricity sales.

NZ Windfarms' annual report states it was a "very poor wind year", with 25 per cent less power generated than expected.

The publicly listed company's decision to make a $30.7m writedown meant its loss was a six-fold increase on the previous financial year.

Mr Sadler declined to comment on the company's financial position, saying that was a topic yet to be discussed at the company's annual general meeting.

City council planning services head Russell O'Leary said the wind farm company was expected to provide more details of its offer to residents by the end of next week.

"This consultative approach seeks to establish an agreed modified operating plan for the wind farm which is acceptable to all parties.

"Upholding the amenity value for the residents in the vicinity of Te Rere Hau remains at the heart of these negotiations," Mr O'Leary said.

Manawatu Standard