Contact Energy’s proposed giant wind farm south of Port Waikato, with 218 turbines standing 150m high, could be among the biggest in the world.
The project will cost up to $2 billion and have the potential to produce up to 650MW, enough to power about 250,000 homes.
The world’s largest wind farm, Horse Hollow in the Texas panhandle, generates 735MW, although plans for a 1000MW farm in Australia were recently announced.
The Port Waikato turbines would cover an area of 320sq km, 35sq km bigger than Great Barrier Island.
Spokesman Jonathan Hill said it was hoped construction of the wind farm – which will be known as Hauauru ma raki, meaning northwest wind – would be well under way by 2010 and completed by 2014.
A resource consent application would be filed by the end of the year.
He said Contact Energy had not bought the land, but had negotiated with owners for access rights.
“We’ve negotiated access agreements with them and obviously there’s a commercial relationship which takes place whereby landowners that have turbines on their land stand to benefit from that commercially. It’s a new form of farming. It’s effectively farming the wind.”
He said more than 20 farmers had signed up to the project.
“This is extremely remote and very isolated, productive farm land … there are very few other houses in the area beyond those that are participating in the project so the visual impact will be very low.”
He said the nearest house that wasn’t directly participating in the scheme was about 1km away.
“[Initially] we removed about 100 turbines from the project for a whole range of reasons including the visual impact and the potential for noise. We’ve come up with a very good scheme that balances the needs of the locals against the needs of the country for renewable energy.”
The announcement comes less than a week after Energy Minister David Parker said power companies are likely to face a 10-year ban on building gas-fired, base-load generators.
Contact Energy said it also planned to build a flexible, fast-start 100MW gas-fired plant at its Stratford station to meet demand at peak times. Chief executive David Baldwin said the new peaking plant would likely cost about $140 million and could be operating by 2009.
Analysis conducted into the economic benefits of the wind farm suggested more than $100m could be injected into the Waikato economy during the four to five year construction period, with about 450 jobs likely during construction.
That would be followed by millions of dollars each year when the wind farm was operating.
Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority chief executive Mike Underhill said: “If given the go-ahead, it will make a significant contribution towards attaining the target of 90 per cent of New Zealand’s electricity being provided by renewable sources by 2025.”
By Maggie McNaughton
17 October 2007
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding