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Meridian buys company with wind farm consent

State-owned electricity company Meridian Energy has bought a Hawke’s Bay company holding resource consent approval for a big wind farm north of Napier.

New Zealand’s largest state-owned electricity company has bought Hawke’s Bay Wind Farm, which since 2006 has held resource consent to build up to 75 turbines on Maungaharuru Range, about 34 kilometres northwest of Napier Airport, on 3200 hectares of cleared farm land.

Meridian bought Hawke’s Bay Wind Farm in September, but a company spokeswoman would not reveal how much it paid.

The consented development would be capable of producing up to 225 megawatts of electricity, substantially more than the largest wind farm at present – Trustpower’s 134-turbine Tararua wind farm, which generates 161MW.

Meridian plans to further investigate the site this summer to see how it can be best used, with a final proposal for the site likely to be completed by the middle of next year.

The purchase included landowners’ agreement to develop the site.

Hawke’s Bay Wind Farm won resource consent for the development after overcoming appeals in the Environment Court in October 2006 and in the High Court in May 2007.

The private company was owned by Hawke’s Bay businessman Andy Lowe’s Eastern Capital, Australian company Wind Farm Developments and Pahiatua-based Hallblock.

The development is beside an outstanding natural feature – a designation councils can gives sites in their district plans – and was opposed by residents of Patoka, about 10 kilometres southeast of the site, who were concerned about adverse effects on the skyline and the site’s natural and heritage landscape.

Unison Energy holds consent to develop a 15-turbine wind farm next to the site.

This was stage one of the two-stage Te Waka-Titiokura Wind Farm. The second stage, which would have included 34 additional turbines, was declined on appeal in the Environment Court in 2008 and again, under a revised proposal, in February 2009.

Meridian is at present negotiating with Unison over developing this site.

The Hawke’s Bay wind farm would be Meridian’s fifth in New Zealand, alongside Wellington’s West Wind, Te Apiti wind farm near Palmerston North, White Hill in Southland and Te Uku wind farm now under construction near Raglan.

Meridian also owns a wind farm in South Australia.