May 15, 2008
New Zealand

Judge rejects claim on numbers

A suggestion the Environment Court was picking the number of turbines for the Mahinerangi wind farm was given a swift rebuke yesterday.

Presenting his right of reply at the last day of the Environment Court hearing of the Mahinerangi wind farm in Dunedin yesterday, TrustPower counsel Les Taylor said, if he was being cynical, the indication by the court of allowing about 80 turbines, was a number the court had picked between the maximum 100 and a minimum of 66.

The company wanted flexibility in picking turbine numbers as technology changed and new more powerful turbine models came on the market.

He said the court should not be looking for reasons to take turbines out but to look for reasons to keep them in.

Judge Jeff Smith took exception to Mr Taylor’s comments, and said it was TrustPower’s evidence which was lacking.

He said it was not the court’s job to make up evidence, and rejected the suggestion the court was making up turbine numbers.

TrustPower had delivered evidence which showed areas of earth fill which beyond the envelope where TrustPower had wanted to develop the wind farm, and he questioned how these areas could be kept in the development.

The court had to consider turbines which impacted on high-value areas of vegetation.

Mr Taylor said there was overwhelming evidence, the site was suitable for a wind farm. He said there was a synergy between having wind and hydro schemes in the same area.

The Waipori hydro scheme, owned by TrustPower, is close to the proposed wind farm site. Mr Taylor said the area was set up for electricity generation, and was a working landscape.

Judge Smith wondered why the company was so fixated on the megawatt production of the site, and not the numbers of turbines.

The company decided on a 200MW maximum output, as it was a good size for TrustPower, it fitted within its generation portfolio, would fit within transmission capacity, and the public could easily understand the limits of the wind farm.

Judge Smith said the three main issues of the case were how close turbines were to the Black Rock reserve boundary, the visual effect as a whole, and the impact of earth works.

He reserved his decision and said it would be at least three months before a decision was issued. Costs were reserved, although he did not think costs would be an issue in this case.

By Steve Hepburn

Otago Daily Times

15 May 2008

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