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Hawke's Bay energy plan gets second wind

The race to harness wind power from the top of Hawke’s Bay’s mountains stepped up a notch this week as Genesis Energy indicated it wanted to buy electricity made from a major windfarm project.

Genesis has been talking to Hawke’s Bay’s Unison Networks, the powerlines company which has one windfarm project approved and another in the pipeline for the Te Pohue and Maungaharuru ranges, about 30km north-west of Napier.

Genesis has said Unison’s windfarms would fit well with its Waikaremoana and Tongariro hydro-generation schemes.

Competitor Hawke’s Bay Wind Farm, a Wellington-based company, also plans 75 turbines on neighbouring Titiokura Saddle.

Its $350-million project investment would generate enough electricity to power 100,000 homes but as yet it has not announced a company willing to buy its power.

In comparison, Unison’s two windfarm projects could generate enough power for 50,000 homes. The consent for the first 15 turbines was approved but the second windfarm for 34 turbines was declined by the Environment Court.

Unison has re-lodged its application to the Hastings District Council in an attempt to win favour for approval of the second windfarm.

Genesis Energy plans to acquire all of the electricity generated by the windfarms through a power-purchase agreement.

Its chief executive, Murray Jackson, said the deal would allow the company to boost its renewable energy sources and move operations at the Huntly coal-fired plant into reserve over the next 10 years.

“Genesis Energy has a number of geothermal and wind energy projects currently being evaluated. Joint partners on windfarm developments are ideal as we not only bring equity to the table but expertise in windfarm operations,” Mr Jackson said.

Unison’s chief executive, Ken Sutherland, said while the full development remained subject to resource management act consent, Genesis’ interest was a “big vote of confidence” in the initiative.