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Castle Hill still in pipeline

Genesis Energy has denied reports that the Castle Hill wind farm is unlikely to be built in the next five years.

Last week chief executive Albert Brantley was reported as saying the company was unlikely to build any new generation projects for years, and there was no guarantee Castle Hill would be the next one built.

But public affairs manager Richard Gordon said they were keeping options open.

“The strategy is to have a range of development options to give us optionality, to have options to go forward if there’s an economic case for it,” he said.

Mr Gordon said there is a commercial case to weigh up in any project, which includes looking at electricity demand, but that nothing has changed in regards to the Castle Hill project.

“We’re continuing to move down the road of considering Castle Hill, and we’re still looking to get consent for it.”

The Castle Hill wind farm project, located 20km northeast of Masterton, would be the largest in New Zealand, covering 30,000ha with 286, 155m-high wind turbines.

Resource consent for the project went to a commissioner’s hearing in January, and the three-man panel is yet to come back with a decision.

Mr Gordon said no timeframes had been set for the project, and it may be done in phases.

Genesis Energy have applied for a 10-year lapse period, a 10-year construction period and a 35-year operation consent.

“So, the extreme timeline could be that we start construction at the end of the first period and then take 10 years to build and then operate for 35 years.”

Castle Hill Action Group requested in a submission that if the consent was granted it be done with a five-year lapse period.

Chairman David Nelson said he was not surprised by comments from Genesis Energy. “New Zealand needs more renewable energy, it’s just where they try to build it and whether or not the effects have been avoided, mitigated or remedied,” he said.

Mr Nelson said the next step, if the consent was granted, would be the Environment Court, though that decision would be up to the community.