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Commercial viability of wind farm at Makara to be reviewed

A new commercial analysis is needed on the viability of a proposed wind farm at Makara, west of Wellington.

The Environment Court has approved the building of 66 wind turbines across Makara Farm and Terawhiti Station.

Meridian Energy once considered putting 107 turbines on the site but lowered this to 70 to make getting resource consent more likely.

That number has now been cut to 66 by the Environment Court in a 152-page ruling. The company says reducing the number to 66 might stop the wind farm going ahead altogether.

The project was originally cleared by Wellington city and regional councils in 2005, but the decision was appealed against and taken to the Environment Court last year.

Meridian Energy chief executive Keith Turner says this means the company will have to review the overall economics of the project. He says there are still many issues to resolve before the wind farm can definitely proceed.

Mr Turner says costs have risen since the scheme was announced in 2005 – including interest rates and raw materials – and the project could cost upward of $500 million.

He said a commercial analysis has to be completed, tenders obtained for construction, and the company needs to confirm it has the money for the project.

Meridian Energy has said the West Wind project would be big enough to provide electricity to 110,000 houses – most of the Wellington region.

The Wind Energy Association, which promotes wind power, says globally wind generation capacity has increased 25% a year over the past five years but less than 2% of New Zealand’s capacity is generated by wind.

A residents’ group in Makara says it is considering whether to appeal against the ruling. The Makara Guardians say the farm is too close to houses.

radionz.co.nz

16 May 2007