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Transpower investigating grid upgrade

Electricity grid operator Transpower is investigating ways to harness a surge in renewable energy plans in the lower South Island.

Earlier today power generators Meridian Energy and Contact Energy announced they would push for a transmission upgrade in the region.

Previously, Contact has opposed Meridian’s proposed Project Hayes windfarm in central Otago on the basis that transmission constraints would restrict how much energy could be sent northwards.

It said those constraints would potentially “crowd out” its existing hydro dams at Clyde and Roxburgh, resulting in the spilling of valuable water.

But today Contact said it had withdrawn an Environment Court appeal against Project Hayes.

In a joint statement, Meridian chief executive Tim Lusk and Contact’s chief executive David Baldwin said the real challenge was the need for more transmission capacity.

“Building new power stations without the ability to get the power to customers isn’t going to help either customers or our shareholders,” the two men said.

A Transpower spokesman declined to comment on the upgrade calls, but said the company was currently seeking public feedback on a proposal to “facilitate” renewable energy projects like Project Hayes in the region.

Both transmission and non-transmission options would be considered, Transpower said. Transmission options include thermal upgrading, reconductoring and building an new transmission line.

Opposition has been strong against Project Hayes and another proposed windfarm being planned by Trustpower near Lake Mahinerangi, west of Dunedin.

Environmentalists claiming Project Hayes will be a blot on the landscape and still not provide the energy security Meridian claims.

Project Hayes, a $2 billion 176-turbine windfarm in the Lammermore Ranges, would ultimately produce 630MW, enough to power every home in the South Island.

The $500m Trustpower project wou ld involve 100 turbines and generate 200MW of power, enough to supply about 100,000 homes.

NZPA

nz.biz.yahoo.com

25 June 2008