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Green light for Wairarapa wind farm

Wairarapa could soon be home to New Zealand’s largest wind farm after Genesis Energy was granted resource consent to increase the size of its controversial mega-wind farm.

It has approval to build up to 286 turbines in the region at a cost of more than $1.6 billion.

Consents for Genesis’s proposed Castle Hill wind farm were confirmed by the Environment Court today, after appeals were lodged against the original consents granted in June last year for 267 turbines. It had originally applied to build 286 turbines, which has now been approved.

The proposed wind farm would have the capacity to generate about 860 megawatts of power. It would be situated north of Masterton and east of Eketahuna across 30,000 hectares of hills used mainly to graze sheep and cattle.

In a statement Genesis Energy chief executive Albert Brantley said the appeals had been resolved by mutual agreement.

“Working closely with the local community over the past year has delivered an outstanding result and having sustainable energy options of this scale is essential for the future of New Zealand’s energy generation.”

The new consents had a 10-year lapse period, which meant Genesis would need to begin construction on Castle Hill by 2023.

In the original submission Genesis applied to build 286 135-metre-high turbines, or 242 155m-high turbines.

This would have made Castle Hill the largest wind farm in Australasia, capable of generating enough electricity to cover the needs of up to 370,000 average New Zealand households.

In June last year, however, the Environment Court granted consent for 267 turbines, which was appealed by several parties, including Genesis.’

The Castle Hill Wind Farm Community Action Group submitted against the plans last year, saying the turbines would have a devastating effect on health and safety of the community.

At the time Genesis spokesman Richard Gordon said there was no certainty when or whether the wind farm will be built.

“Whatever happens there’s not likely to be urgency in terms of construction.

“There’s still got to be an economic, commercial case for building it, and our view now is that the market is saturated with generation capacity and there’s no particular need to build new capacity of any type right now.”