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South Island’s biggest wind farm to be constructed on Canterbury’s Mt Cass

Hurunui’s Mt Cass will soon be home to the South Island’s largest wind farm after lines company MainPower announced it had begun preliminary work on the $200 million project.

When fully operational, the Mt Cass wind farm will generate 93 megawatts – enough energy to power 40,000 homes.

The plan was initially rejected by district council-appointed commissioners in 2009, who labelled wind turbines “inappropriate” because they would degrade an outstanding natural feature of national significance – the ridge between Mt Cass and Totara Peak.

However it was eventually consented in 2012 after an Environment Court ruling and consultative Resource Management Act process.

The 22 turbines will be positioned along a 7.5-kilometre ridge on Mt Cass, about 5km from Waipara in North Canterbury and close to the Kate Valley Landfill.

The turbines have been specifically designed for extreme environmental conditions. The wind farm will be the largest in the South Island, and the largest to be community-owned in New Zealand.

MainPower chief executive Andy Lester said the investment would provide sustainable and long-term economic benefits for shareholders, consumers and the community.

“It will also assist in meeting the future energy requirements of our customers and play an important role in New Zealand’s journey towards resilience and the reduction of greenhouse CO2 emissions,” he said.

The project will be funded by MainPower equity and by a dedicated project finance loan, which will be repaid using profits from the wind farm.

Civil and electrical design work is under way, along with planning for predator-free areas of native bush for some of the 127 hectares of land.

Lester said MainPower would work with landowners, the local community, iwi and the Department of Conservation to finalise its plans over the coming months.

MainPower board chairman Tony King said it was a “very exciting project” for the company and the wider community.

“The [company has] … been working on this for nearly two decades and we are delighted to announce this positive investment decision.”

Main construction will begin later in the year and is expected to be completed by late 2021.