The tallest wind turbines in the country could soon be built on the Taranaki ring plain as part of a world-leading $70 million “green” hydrogen project.
The turbines would generate electricity to produce “green” hydrogen that would be turned into fertiliser and used to fuel heavy vehicles.
Green hydrogen is a term for hydrogen produced using electricity generated from renewable sources such as wind, solar and hydro.
The Hiringa Energy Limited and Ballance Agri-Nutrients’ green hydrogen hub at Kapuni could be approved as early as next month.
It has been placed under the Government’s Covid-19 Recovery (Fast-Track Consenting) Act 2020, which speeds up the consent process for projects that can boost employment and economic recovery.
The turbines – 206 metres from the ground to the tip of the turbine blade – would be built at Kokiri Rd, 5 km northeast of Manaia township, in South Taranaki. If approved construction would begin next year.
Their height and size is expected to have an impact on people’s appreciation of Taranaki Maunga and the surrounding landscape.
The existing view of Taranaki Maunga from just outside Manaia.
But a visual assessment undertaken as part of the application determined the four turbines would not dominate the landscape.
The turbines would be the tallest manmade structures in Taranaki and the tallest wind turbines in the country.
The electricity generated would be transferred via underground cables 2km north to Ballance Agri-Nutrients’ ammonia-urea manufacturing plant at Palmer Rd to produce “green” hydrogen from water.
This hydrogen would be combined with nitrogen to make up to 7000 tonnes of urea fertiliser annually.
It would also provide fuel for transport and support the development of a green hydrogen energy and transport hub for South Taranaki, securing 150 jobs, with up to 40 full-time-equivalent jobs created during construction.
“The proposal has the capacity to generate 2000kg of green hydrogen per day, enough to supply up to 6,000 cars, or 50 heavy vehicles, per day, though initially the proposal is to begin refuelling up to 25 heavy vehicles per day,” the application states.
The Government has appointed a four-strong expert consenting panel to make the final decision, including South Taranaki deputy mayor Robert Northcott.
Under the Act, public and limited notification is not permitted, and a public hearing is not required.
Councils, iwi and landowners affected by the plans have been asked to submit written comments by Thursday, October 21, and the panel will then have 25 working days to make a decision, although the timeframe “can be extended in certain circumstances”.
Andrew Clennett, chief executive of Hiringa, said they had consulted the key affected parties and the fast-track was not a shortcut in terms of the background work required to make the application, but simply to sped up the consent process.
He said they had spent “extra time with the immediate community, with the immediate landowners and with the mana whenua hapu and iwi”.
During consultation, which included leaflet drops and public meetings at Kapuni and Manaia public halls, they had adjusted the placing of the turbines to manage the view from various sacred sites, he said.
The two hapū in whose rohe the project is located – Ngāti Tu and Ngāti Manuhiakai – are generally supportive, the application states.
But Okahu-lnuawai hapū is not supportive and has chosen to withdraw from further engagement.
Clennett said the turbines would generate 24 megawatts of electricity – enough to meet the electricity demands of nearby Hāwera – and the project would be a “shining light globally” in moving away from fossil fuels.
The turbines will be taller than those at the Waipipi Wind Farm near Waverley, which stand at 160m, and the power station chimney at Port Taranaki in New Plymouth, which is 198m tall.
Clennett said the size allowed the turbines to reach steadier winds and generate more power.
“The area we have got, the site we have got, is well suited for four. We wouldn’t put more. By going bigger you achieve the level of efficiency to make it commercially viable.”
The expert panel has sought written comments from South Taranaki District Council and the Taranaki Regional Council, Powerco, Te Korowai o Ngāruahine Trust, Taranaki Māori Trust Board, Ngāti Haua, Ōkahu-Inuawai, Ngāti TamaahuroaTitahi, Transpower and Nova Energy.
Climate Justice Taranaki, which calls hydrogen technology expensive and inefficient, has criticised the lack of public involvement.
Spokeswoman Emily Bailey said the group had raised “serious concerns” formally on many occasions, but had not been invited to take part in the application process.
Fred McLay, Taranaki Regional Council’s director-resource management, said the proposal did not raise any significant resource management issues.
South Taranaki District council called the application “exciting”.
“If approved, this will be another positive step in the right direction,” mayor Phil Nixon said in a statement.
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