New Zealanders need to realise there are environmental impacts with any form of electricity generation, says the Wind Energy Association after an independent adviser recommended a big Central Otago wind farm be rejected.
Meridian Energy’s 176-turbine industrial scale wind farm on the Lammermoor Range has been struck a big blow weeks before its resource consent bid is heard by the Central Otago District Council.
The council-contracted planner, David Whitney, recommended the council reject the $2 billion project because it would be a blot on an iconic landscape and harm tourism in the area.
The recommendation is also a blow to the Government’s wish for all new electricity generation to come from renewable forms of energy and demonstrates that will not be easy to achieve. The Minister of Energy was not prepared to comment yesterday in detail on the recommendation as the resource consent hearing was soon to start.
David Parker did say: “I’m confident that enough renewable energy can be consented under the Resource Management Act to meet New Zealand’s needs.”
State-owned Meridian Energy is not making comments on the recommendation either and says it is still digesting the Whitney report.
Its plans for another large scale wind farm project at Makara, outside of Wellington, have been frustrated by appeals from residents and the state power company is waiting for a decision from the Environment Court.
Wind Energy association chief executive Fraser Clark said wind energy would make a useful contribution to New Zealand’s electricity supply.
The wind industry was conscious its proposals had impacts on the landscape as other forms of renewable energy did also, such as hydro dams and geothermal power.
Communities had to weigh up the landscape impacts against the impacts of other forms of electricity generation.
“What we are offering with wind energy is a local energy supply, a New Zealand energy supply, no greenhouse gas effects, and we have to trade that off against the landscape effects and other impacts,” Clark said.
Ironically, it appeared easier to gain a resource consent for a gas-fired power station which emitted greenhouse gases than for some wind farms.
He doubted Meridian would be put off developing the Central Otago wind farm by the recommendation. Meridian would have to respond to the issues raised by Whitney and convince the council to approve the project.
By Marta Steeman
12 April 2007
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