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Wind farm company eyes potential sites in Otago

Another company is scouting wind farm sites in Otago, but will not say whether any of the locations it has looked at appear promising.

New Zealand Windfarms chief executive Chris Freear was in Dunedin on Tuesday after looking at potential wind farm sites in the area.

Mr Freear declined to provide further details on any of the sites, citing commercial sensitivity, and emphasised his company was scouting locations throughout the country.

“New Zealand’s got a lot of windy hills,” he said.

NZ Windfarms, which is based in Christchurch, is building the Te Rere Hau wind farm in the Tararua Ranges near Palmerston North. The 48.5MW farm will cost $80 million and its 97 turbines are expected to generate enough power for 18,000 homes.

The company hopes to have its next one or two projects in the resource consent phase within the next 18 months.

Mr Freear declined to say whether either of those projects might be in Otago, but said any developments the company decided to pursue would include a proper consultation process.

“There’s nothing worse than reading about what’s happening in your neighbourhood in the paper, rather than having someone come and talk with you.”

Mr Freear believed power generation by wind farms had many benefits, chief among them being wind’s renewable nature and its reliability.

Adding more wind farms to the energy mix would result in greater security of the power supply, an important issue for New Zealand given its heavy reliance on hydro-electricity and resulting vulnerability to dry spells.

“Can you think of a month where it didn’t blow, or even a week?”

Mr Freear acknowledged wind farms were not universally popular, and negative visual effects were often an argument opponents put forward.

“The reality is, wind tends to be on the ridges, the ridges are on the skyline, and the skyline can be seen from far and wide.”

He said wind energy could “easily” meet a third of New Zealand’s electricity needs and he believed New Zealand, given its other resources such as hydroelectricity and thermal schemes, could potentially generate all its power through renewable resources.

By Blair Mayston