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Pioneer plans Bluff wind farm

Otago’s pioneering wind farm developer has just unveiled plans for its third wind power venture, this time a $16 million project near Bluff.

Pioneer Generation, based in Alexandra, plans to start construction in October on the eight-turbine Flat Hill wind farm on farmland about 3km west of Bluff. It is expected to be operating by June next year and will supply enough power for about 2600 homes.

Pioneer is a community-owned company which owns and operates 13 hydro-electricity generation stations in Otago and Southland and two wind farms in Otago.

The company was formed in 1999, after the electricity industry reforms, and evolved from the generation assets of the former Otago Central Electric Power Board.

It is wholly owned by the Central Lakes Trust and pays an annual dividend to the trust.

The money is donated by the trust to community projects within the former power board area.

Pioneer launched Otago’s first wind farm in 2009, a three-turbine farm at Horseshoe Bend on the Teviot River, 15km from Roxburgh. It then developed the Mt Stuart wind farm, near Milton, which has been operating since December 2011.

It bought the Flat Hill project from wind generation company Energy3 last year and resource consents were already granted.

New Zealand Wind Energy Association chief executive Eric Pyle said the project would generate 20 jobs at the peak of construction and it would create two or three permanent jobs.

‘‘It’s the kind of community wind farm the New Zealand Wind Energy Association expects to see replicated around the country,” he said.

Pioneer chief executive, Fraser Jonker said the wind resource at Bluff was ‘‘one of the best in New Zealand” which made the Flat Hill farm an exceptional and high-quality investment project.

Flat Hill would support growth in the South, as well as contributing to Pioneer’s continued business growth, Mr Jonker said.

Foundations and earthworks would begin in October and work on the towers would start early next year, Pioneer generation engineer Tony Jack said.

The towers, 44m high, with a blade diameter of 52m, would be visible from the Bluff highway.

Pioneer project development and delivery general manager, Peter Mulvihill, said the Bluff wind farm would be on a similar scale to the Mt Stuart operation and would use turbines from the sameSpanish company that provided the Mt Stuart ones.

‘‘We’re always on the lookout for any power generation opportunities, throughout the country, and this one certainly stacked up, so we’re excited about the prospect,” Mr Mulvihill said.

The electricity generated would go into the local grid and be fed through PowerNet Ltd.

Pioneer’s plans for a hydro-electric dam on the Nevis River were stymied in November, after a seven-year wrangle.

Environment Minister Amy Adams banned damming or diverting the river to protect ‘‘a unique native fishery and an unusual river feature”.