The proposed Te Uku wind farm has come under attack from a man who spent many years designing such projects.
Sean Cox, who has lived directly upwind of the farm site at Aotea Harbour for 15 years, is an aerodynamicist with extensive background in wind research and wind farm construction.
Yesterday he rubbished the Wel Networks project as “all fluff and nonsense” at the application hearing in Ngaruawahia.
As a result of Mr Cox’s evidence, the commissioners were to convene earlier than expected today to put a host of questions to Wel Networks. Mr Cox presented a withering but engaging dissection of the 28-turbine Te Uku proposal’s rationale, the science behind its operation and its presumed benefits.
“It is an economic and power supply disaster as well as an environmental disaster,” he concluded. “The application should be refused on the grounds of its potential damage to the economy of New Zealand.”
Mr Cox’s affinity with wind includes his world windsurfing champion title in 1987. He denied he was “anti” wind power, which he described as an “under-utilised” resource.
“I am anti poorly conceived projects that bring useful technologies into disrepute,” he said, slamming what he considered was a shabby Wel Networks case.
His own research showed Raglan was the least windy area of any on the west coast between Wellington and Dargaville.
“My first reaction on hearing of the Te Uku project was `What?’ Simply because this area is one of the last you would look at on the west coast.”
Wel Networks refused to let him see its data making him even more curious.
So he did his own calculations on project economics based on average wind speeds and annual total “useful power output”, and concluded the cost would be more than three times the current average wholesale price.
“They have come to this hearing with fluff and absurd claims,” he said, before ridiculing claims of carbon emission savings.
He estimated the manufacture, transportation and construction of the turbines would account for 103,000 tonnes of C02 emissions.
He slammed the evidence of several of Wel Networks’ consultants particularly acoustic consultant Nevil Hegley and asked that their evidence be set aside as they were giving evidence outside their field of expertise, as covered by an Environment Court ruling last year.
Further, he invited the hearing to accept his draft conditions relating to air pressure variations if Wel was so certain its project could meet criteria relating to subsonic airwave emissions.
Mr Cox said the latest turbine designs produced significantly less audible noise, but about 30 times as much subsonic noise.
“The net effect is there are now extensive areas where people are not driven mad by the noise, but are subjected to unusually high levels of a novel kind of wind radiation.”
By Bruce Holloway
29 November 2007
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