New Zealanders would face increasing uncertainty over how to meet growing electricity demands if schemes such as the Kaiwera wind farm were denied consent, according to economics expert Dr Brent Layton.
The chief executive of the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research was among witnesses for TrustPower on the fourth day of a joint resource consent hearing for the wind farm, east of Mataura.
Dr Layton said energy efficiency improvements help but cannot be relied on to provide increasing energy needs to support a growing economy, and new generation capacity was required.
Wind farms could usefully contribute to this new capacity and forestall alternative generation options, he said.
The Kaiwera Downs wind farm, specifically, could save millions of dollars in greenhouse gas emissions by displacing thermal generation.
At present prices for carbon emissions, and provided the wind farm's average output of 904GWh a year displaced thermal generation, it would avoid greenhouse gas emissions of between 321,000 tonnes and 761,000 tonnes. These were worth $6.8 million to $25.1 million in aggregate each year, Dr Layton said.
There were also financial benefits locally with about $76 million of the wind farm's capital cost being spent in Otago and Southland and up to $1 million annually in wages once the wind farm was operational, he said.
Registered valuer Michael Penrose gave evidence that properties near the site should not drop in value.
Real estate advertisements for homes near a wind farm at Ashhurst feature views of "the windmills" and homes take no longer to sell than elsewhere, he said.
The wind farm would significantly change the visual landscape of the existing environment and some of the residences near it would be visually affected.
Four homes have been identified as worst affected. These were owned by Ken Shute (1.8km from the nearest turbine), Allan Woodrow (2.2km), Colin Woodrow (3.3km) and Alex Moody (3.4km).
The impact on the values of the dwellings would be minor but the impact on the farm value would be negligible, Mr Penrose said.
TrustPower closes its case today with planning evidence, while submissions in the afternoon will be mainly from individuals and businesses supporting the project.
The many Kaiwera residents who have opposed the project will get to have their say next week.
Gore planning consultant Keith Hovell said the hearing was expected to go through to Thursday.
Hearing commissioners were planning to visit the site on Wednesday.
KAIWERA DOWNS WIND FARM
- Capital cost $380 million
- $76 million of that spent directly in the Otago-Southland region
- total economic impact during construction $171 million
- installed capacity 240MW capable of meeting annual power demand of 100,000 homes
- 83 turbines maximum with a maximum height of 145m
- 115 new jobs during construction
- 7 or 8 fulltime equivalent staff during operation
- New Zealand's fifth largest generator
- fourth largest power retailer
- started as Tauranga Electric Power Board established 1924
- serves about 220,000 customers
- manages 34 power schemes
- Joint Gore District Council-Environment Southland hearing panel
- Members: chairman David Pullar, GDC Crs Cliff Bolger, Nicky Davis and Bret Highsted
- Hearing, March 31 to April 9, Gore District Council chambers
- Written submissions, 43 against, 50 in support
- © Fairfax NZ News
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