Meridian Energy’s proposed super-sized Makara wind farm has won Environment Court approval, but the number of turbines has been trimmed from 70 to 66.
Yesterday’s decision was welcomed by the Government, which has been concerned that delays in gaining consents for wind farms are hobbling its drive for more sustainable and climate-friendly generation.
It comes less than a week after Environment Minister David Benson-Pope called in Principal Environment Judge John Bollard to discuss the reasons for the delays.
Energy Minister David Parker said the West Wind farm “is just the sort of development we need to secure a sustainable, carbon-neutral future”.
The decision trims four turbines from Meridian’s revised plan, but the state-owned generator said the project would go ahead.
Opponents could lodge an appeal to the High Court on matters of law only, which could delay the project by six months.
Eight appeals were lodged with the Environment Court, several of which challenged the proposed positioning of individual turbines.
After the four-week hearings in June last year, Makara Guardians spokeswoman Jenny Jorgensen said more than half of the 70 turbines were close enough to houses to have noise and visual impacts.
Last night, Makara Guardians president George Goodsir said he was shocked and disgusted by the ruling.
He challenged Meridian chief executive Keith Turner to abandon the project as it was no longer economically viable.
During the hearings, Dr Turner said delays had added $120 million to the estimated $500 million cost over two years due to higher steel, transport and construction costs. That had left it marginally viable.
The site would probably generate 160-170 megawatts of power at peak output, down from the 210-megawatt output originally envisaged.
Meridian had planned to use 70 three-megawatt generators, but it was close to choosing a machine with output of about 2.5 megawatts. That would also mean the turbines would be smaller than the 125-metre units approved by the court.
West Wind would be able to supply most of Wellington’s domestic power needs.
“This is positive news for Wellington and for New Zealand,” Dr Turner said yesterday. “We have always said that this site was a large resource and has the potential to be the best wind farm in the world; and we now have the opportunity to make that vision a reality.”
By Vernon Small and Matthew Torbit
The Dominion Post
16 May 2007
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