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Neighbouring wind farm could feed Tiwai smelter

Tiwai Peninsula could be next in line for a wind farm after Project Hayes and Mahinerangi, as the aluminium smelter moves towards renewable energy.

Meridian Energy recently released a report on the case to upgrade the Otago to Waitaki transmission line, which included Transpower’s plans to meet increased capacity from wind generation during the next 35 years.

Tiwai is on the list for 2027, in between stage two and three of Project Hayes, and following the completion of Trustpower’s Mahinerangi project in 2016.

A wind tower was erected on the Tiwai peninsula in 2004 to test the conditions and Meridian confirmed this week it was still being considered as a potential site.

Communications manager Alan Seay said although not on a large scale like Project Hayes, it would sit alongside the aluminium smelter.

“It has been identified as a site where a limited amount of power could be generated through wind.

“But nothing is imminent on the site yet, it’s just one of our options,” he said.

The wind farm would have a 79MW capacity, according to the report, and be built in three stages.

New Zealand Aluminium Smelters Ltd signed a deal with Meridian in October for a further 18 years’ electricity supply from 2013. The deal was for 572MW of continuous supply. But the company has spent the past 10 years investigating alternative power supply options with Meridian.

Tiwai acting general manager Scott Westbury said the company’s preference was to continue working with Meridian and where necessary use renewable resources, such as wind. However, data collected during the past few years to assess the wind power potential had proven Tiwai was not a high-priority site.

“Wind would have to be backed up with other forms of generation when the wind doesn’t blow,” he said.

Transpower will need to spend $37 million upgrading the Otago to Waitaki transmission link to 850MW capacity for additional wind power generation during the next seven years.

Meanwhile, the Save Central group is gearing up for its Environment Court pre-hearing for Project Hayes on Monday. The group was set up in December to fight both Hayes and Mahinerangi wind farms.

By Aimee Wilson

The Southland Times

23 January 2008