Turbine farm for Ohariu Valley

NEW ENERGY: Turbines will be built on the range behind Ohariu Valley's Greg Best. He says the idea was raised more than a decade ago.
NEW ENERGY: Turbines will be built on the range behind Ohariu Valley's Greg Best. He says the idea was raised more than a decade ago.

Meridian Energy has confirmed plans for a 31-turbine wind farm in Wellington's Ohariu Valley, after battling for two years against strong community opposition to develop a $420 million wind farm at Makara.

The energy company is working with five farmers who own 4000 hectares of exposed coastal land between Makara and Titahi Bay.

The proposed Mill Creek turbines will be 111 metres high and are projected to generate 71 megawatts of power – enough for 35,000 homes.

The farmers, whose farms have been in their families for up to five generations, formed Windcorp six years ago to seek interest from energy companies to put turbines on their land. They selected Meridian Energy but discussions broke down in 2003 over how much they should be paid.

Agreement has now been reached and community consultation began at a meeting with residents last night.

One of the farmers, Greg Best, said the idea was first mooted 13 years ago when the farmers were looking at ways to keep their land.

"We are very excited about it. We have considered the community and not put towers on ridges that are too close – they are all out the back and towards the coast."

The approach was different to the one Meridian took with the 62-turbine West Wind Project, he said.

"We are discussing it with local residents first to try and get feedback."

Meridian spokeswoman Claire Shaw said the land shared the same wind as the Makara project.

Makara residents fought the West Wind proposal for two years, highlighting the problem that even if electricity was carbon-free, New Zealanders still did not want its generation to impinge on their lifestyle.

After more than 4000 submissions, resource consent was granted, but residents raced to the Environment Court.

The court shaved four turbines off Meridian's original 70-turbine proposal and the company dropped a further four and cut the height of the turbines from 125 metres to 111.

Meridian decided last September to proceed with the project.

It began roadworks before Christmas and plans to have equipment on the site by October.

New Zealand Wind Energy Association chief executive Fraser Clark welcomed the Mill Creek Project, saying it would be great to see the community-driven incentive succeed.

"It has taken a fair amount of determination and patience for the landowners to get this far, it is a reflection of the desire to see clean, renewable, climate-friendly energy being utilised,"he said.

The Mill Creek and West Wind projects should work well together. "The resource there is amongst the best in the world," he said.

Two open days were planned on February 12 and 16 to get feedback before a resource consent application was lodged with Wellington City Council.

The Dominion Post