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Wind farm plan for ‘historic’ Flat Hill site

An eight-turbine wind farm, worth up to $15 million, could be coming to Flat Hill, near Bluff.

It would have the potential to produce up to 7 megawatts of electricity and result in lower power prices for Bluff residents, but would be on a historically significant site.

Energy3, a South Island company that specialises in small wind farms, showed the Bluff Community Board its proposal last night.

The eight turbines would each stand 81 metres tall and produce about 850KW of energy each – enough to power all Bluff’s energy needs.

They would be clearly visible from Gore St in Bluff and on State Highway 1 to Invercargill.

Board directors Warren McNabb and Tom Cameron said the electricity would be sold on to suppliers and could result in lower power prices for consumers.

“If you have power generated locally, it doesn’t have to travel a great distance,” Mr McNabb said.

“It could result in lower power prices but it’s a relatively small project in the context of the large energy demand in this area.”

The site was investigated by Meridian Energy in 2009, when concerns were raised about its potential historical significance to Maori. Energy3 had already had an archeological survey completed by South Pacific Archeological Research, which suggested the wind farm would not impact on anything of interest, Mr McNabb said.

However, the survey recommended a cultural impact assessment be done. Energy3 is working with Te Ao Marama, which facilitates matters between runanga and applicants, as well as the New Zealand Historic Places Trust to work through any issues.

An ecological impact assessment had also been completed.

Flat Hill is listed on the Invercargill City District Plan as an area of outstanding natural features and landscapes. Whether the wind farm would go ahead was up to the resource consent hearings, Mr McNabb said.

Board members raised concerns about noise from the wind farm. Energy3 had talked to immediate neighbours about the impact of the turbines, he said. However, an acoustic assessment had been done and showed the wind farm would be well within legal limits.

The company hopes to have a resource consent application ready by Christmas. If everything went to plan, it could be built by the end of next year.