Central Otago is to get its first wind farm albeit a small one.
Electricity company Pioneer Generation Limited has been granted consent to build up to three wind-powered generators on a spur above the Teviot River at Horseshoe Bend, about 15km east of Roxburgh.
The company plans initially to install two turbines with a combined capacity of about 1.2MW, and they could be operating by April 1 next year.
The performance of the first two units will determine whether or not a third is installed. A third turbine would see the total capacity rise to 1.8MW.
The wind turbines will each be about 72m in height, including rotor extension from the 50m hubs.
Pioneer Generation proposes to buy second-hand generators, which will probably be sourced from Europe.
The Central Otago District Council (CODC) said in its decision that any adverse effects were outweighed by the positive effects of the proposal.
The positive effects of wind farm development had been emphasised in the submissions of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority and others.
The cited benefits included adding to and diversifying New Zealand’s generating base, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, reducing dependence on the national grid, reliability, development benefits for industry, and a contribution to the renewable energy target.
Pioneer Generation is owned by the Central Lakes Trust. The company already operates the Horseshoe Bend hydro-electric generation facility in the area, and the power provided by the wind turbines will be connected to that operation.
The site is zoned rural A in the transitional district plan, and as no provision is made in that zone for wind farms, the proposal was notified.
Ten submissions had been received by the closing date, but three late submissions were accepted by the applicants at the hearing three weeks ago in Alexandra.
The hearing saw considerable discussion on the colour of the wind turbines, planner David Whitney recommending they be painted a shade of grey.
As part of its conditional approval, the CODC has required that they be coated in a low-reflectivity paint that is not white.
The Department of Conservation had opposed the application, citing concerns about the adverse effect on several threatened species of indigenous avifauna and two threatened indigenous plant species.
No development levy will be charged for the adverse effects of activities, as the total value of the development will be about $2.2 million, which is less than the threshold of $5 million for the imposition of such a levy.
Thirty-three conditions have been put on the development and Pioneer Generation said it would need to examine these.
The turbines are not to exceed a height of 75m, and are not to bear any signwriting. Any writing already on the second-hand units is to be painted over. The transformers are to be painted in colours that either match the turbines or the surrounding tussock.
Strict rules surround the protection of the New Zealand falcon. If any are found to be nesting in the area of the development, the council may deem it necessary to limit or postpone activities on the site until the chicks are fledged. All birds found dead or injured are to be reported and must be checked by a qualified vet.
After two years, providing there are no ill effects on flora and avifauna, the monitoring may be scaled down.
Other conditions relate to traffic management, waste disposal and decommissioning.
By Diane Brown
13 October 2007
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