A planned third wind farm could take the number of turbines dotting Wellington’s wind-swept outer hills to more than 140 – together providing enough electricity to power every home in the city when operating at full capacity.
The proposal, which has yet to receive resource consent, would place between 20 and 50 New Zealand-made turbines in Long Gully, which runs south behind the Brooklyn wind turbine in Wellington.
State-owned Mighty River Power has signed a deal with New Zealand turbine manufacturer Windflow Technology to provide turbines for the project.
Mighty River has bought a 19.95 per cent stake in Windflow Technology at a cost of more than $7 million. The company plans to generate 500 megawatts of wind power within seven years.
The wind farm would be the third on the south coast. After a decade-long battle, Meridian Energy has started building 61 turbines at Makara. It plans another 31-turbine wind farm in Ohariu Valley.
Mighty River Power said the proposal was in the very early stages, but wind development manager Trevor Nash said it would be a “relatively small” project that would produce about 10MW at full capacity.
That is enough electricity to power about 3000 homes – a small fraction of Meridian Energy’s Makara project, which will generate about 140MW.
Mighty River’s proposed site is regularly buffeted by high winds. The nearby Brooklyn turbine, installed in 1993 as a research project, is reportedly one of the highest-performing turbines in the world.
It is not yet known where the Long Gully turbines would be placed, or whether they would be seen or heard from homes.
The choice of Long Gully, which is largely uninhabited, could allow the project to pass more smoothly than Meridian Energy’s $400 million Project West Wind in Makara, which attracted more than 4000 public submissions and took several years of negotiations. After objectors appealed to the Environment Court, it finally got the green light in May.
For Long Gully, Windflow’s 0.5MW turbines are small compared with Meridian’s 2MW turbines at Makara, but also cost less and use half the steel and concrete of the European-made turbines.
Long Gully Station owner Steven Watson said Mighty River had been monitoring the wind there for about four years, and he had had an agreement with the company for three years regarding building on his land.
“I just see it as a very sensible use of what is otherwise marginal farmland. It just makes so much sense.”
Mr Watson said he was trying to ensure all recreational use of the land, including mountain bike tracks, would continue.
Carrick Lewis of Action for the Environment, one of the groups that opposed the Makara development in the Environment Court, said Long Gully would suffer environmental damage from turbines.
The group would study the proposal as it became available to decide whether it would oppose the plan. “We’re viewing it with concern,” he said.
An application for resource consent is expected to be lodged within six months.
The resource consent process, including public submissions, can take up to a year.
By Emily Watt
The Dominion Post
1 July 2008
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