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Wind farm at Turitea moves closer

Mighty River Power plans to build up to 131 wind turbines in Palmerston North’s Turitea Reserve and on neighbouring properties.

The state-owned company confirmed yesterday it will seek resource consents for the wind farm, which could potentially generate up to 360 megawatts of electricity for the national grid, enough to power 150,000 houses. Consistent wind speeds at the northern end of the Tararua Forest Park make the site potentially “one of New Zealand’s most successful wind generation developments”, according to Mighty River Power.

Applications for resource consents will be heard by independent commissioners.

Mighty River Power development manager Stuart McDonnell said the company will host information days about the project in the Palmerston North Convention Centre next week and the following week.

The Manawatu Standard has previously reported that up to 60 turbines could be put in the Turitea water catchment.

It’s understood that most of the planned 131 turbines would be on private land.

The High Court ruled a year ago that the reserve could be used for renewable electricity generation.

The controversial plan – a joint venture between Palmerston North City Council and Mighty River Power – involves using revenue generated by the wind farm to create an eco-park.

Council business development executive Mike Manson said the park would be about the size of Kapiti Island.

No more than 25ha of the reserve would be used for the wind farm, he said.

The council would engage with the Department of Conservation to develop an eco-park strategy.

“Scoping” has been done on the practicality of re-planting areas of the park and re-introducing endangered native species, he said.

Mighty River Power bought a 19.95 percent stake in Windflow Technology last month but it is not expected to use Windflow’s two- bladed turbines in the Turitea development.

The company made “progress payments” worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to the council as hurdles were cleared.

There were also helicopter rides for councillors.

The High Court ruled, however, that a contention of bias failed and that renewable electricity generation was a legitimate council purpose.

Mighty River Power’s information days will be held at the Convention Centre from Tuesday to Thursday in the next two weeks, 10am to 2pm.

By Grant Miller

Manawatu Standard

17 July 2008