The site of a proposed $2 billion wind farm for Central Otago is unrivalled in its potential, Meridian Energy says.
The company yesterday began a five-week bid to gain resource consent for the southern hemisphere’s largest wind farm on the remote Lammermoor Range, near Ranfurly.
Meridian counsel Andrew Beatson said the quality of wind speed and scale at the site meant Project Hayes could be generating electricity 88 per cent of the time ““ a rate that could not be matched anywhere else in New Zealand.
“To put this in perspective, the combination of scale and resource found at this site is only likely to be matched at a few sites worldwide,” he said.
On the first day of the hearing 11 company representatives were present.
The company listed 18 experts it expects to provide evidence over the next two weeks.
This was despite a recent attempt to circumvent the Central Otago District Council and Otago Regional Council commissioners who are hearing the case, and have the application heard by a government panel of inquiry or by the Environment Court.
Outside yesterday’s hearing, Meridian Energy chief executive Keith Turner said the company was concerned the identities of the five commissioners involved were not known until six days ago.
There also appeared to be a local assumption that whatever decision the commissioners made, it would be appealed in the Environment Court, he said. “We’ve asked the Government and they’ve declined to call it in. Now we’re absolutely committed to this hearing.”
He hoped the company would avoid an Environment Court appeal, which would add further delays.
The project is the largest seen in the district since the Clyde Dam in the 1980s and has stirred enormous controversy despite, or because of, its remote location.
A total of 1045 submissions have been received on the plan with 516 in support, 524 in opposition and five which were neutral.
The proposal allows for a maximum of 176 turbines reaching a maximum height of 160m. It could provide enough electricity to supply power to up to 263,000 homes.
Beatson said the need for the additional generation in the South Island was urgent as it became a net importer of electricity from the North Island last winter.
Beatson cautioned the commissioners against putting much emphasis on a Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment report that says smaller wind farms in dispersed locations were better than large-scale projects.
To replace Project Hayes the company would require 33 wind farms, each requiring separate resource consents in different places.
If approved, Project Hayes would mean a plethora of small wind farms would not be needed anywhere, he said.
By Debbie Jamieson
1 May 2007
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