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Image of wind farms attacked

A newly formed lobby group has branded the clean, green image of wind farms a myth, and wants work postponed on all proposed farms until their effects can be independently assessed.

“Wind farms have all the appearances of being clean and green but we can’t keep gobbling up landscape at 140sq km every two years,” Rational Energy Debate (Red) spokesman Ewan Carr said.

“There’s nothing particularly clean or green about that.”

Red was formed in response to Meridian Energy’s Project Hayes, on the Lammermoor Range on a 92sq km site on the eastern side of the Styx-Paerau Valley, and Trustpower’s planned wind farm on a 50sq km development envelope near Mahinerangi.

Mr Carr, a resident of Dansey Pass who owns property in Styx, said although the installed theoretical capacity of the wind farms was high, Meridian had said power generated was likely to be about 37% of that, which was well above the international average of 23% for wind farms.

Assuming that figure held for both sites, the real capacity was 345MW, which would meet a little over two years of growth in demand for power, he said.

Publicity material for the group bemoans the “rabid proliferation” of wind farm developments in New Zealand, and raises concerns some are planned in the country’s “most unique” landscapes.

Mr Carr said the group had reservations about whether “industrial scale” wind farms were appropriate for New Zealand, and worried many people did not realise the full effects their construction would have on the landscape.

He called for a moratorium on wind farm development until the benefits and drawbacks of wind generation could be “independently and competently” assessed, and believed powersaving measures should be put in place immediately.

That would allow time for a full assessment of the power generation and distribution options best suited to New Zealand’s people and landscape.

“Take the energy-saving bulb situation; there’s 1,467,900 dwellings in New Zealand as of census night, I think; poke 12 light bulbs at every house, which would cost about $45 million, you’d save more energy than this thing would produce by a long shot,” Mr Carr said.

The group was speaking to academics at the University of Canterbury to further explore that idea.

Red was formed about two months ago, and had an “affiliation” of about 100 people wanting to spark debate about the best way forward for energy generation.

Mr Carr acknowledged hydro-electricity and wind power were the main renewable energy sources at present, but he did not want to see more dams built.

Instead, he believed there was potential for further research into emerging technology such as wave power.

He encouraged people with concerns to make submissions on wind farm developments.

“People can register and say, “˜Let’s stop ripping up landscape after landscape with these things which will be seen from just about every elevated area in Otago’.”

Submissions on Project Hayes close with the Central Otago District Council on November 24, and the Otago Regional Council has yet to open the consents for submissions.

Trustpower is expected to submit revised resource consent applications to the Otago Regional Council and the Clutha District Council before the end of the month.

By Blair Mayston