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Staged Tidal Power Generation Recommended

Date: 21 August, 2008

Staged Tidal Power Generation Recommended

A local authority panel is recommending the Minister of Conservation allow staged development of a network of up to 200 underwater turbines – capable of generating enough power for up to 250,000 homes – in the Northern Kaipara Harbour.

A three-member Northland Regional Council Hearings Committee heard an application by Crest Energy Kaipara Limited for the multimillion dollar project, which would harness the power of tidal flows in and out of Kaipara Harbour.

The Committee - chaired by Councillor Lorraine Hill – heard the application in Whangarei over several days in late May and delivered its decision today (subs: Thurs 21 August).

In that decision, the Committee grants 11 resource consents needed for the project, subject to comprehensive conditions, including that the development occur in four stages to allow any adverse environmental effects to be managed. Those consents are valid until mid-2043.

The Committee is also recommending the Conservation Minister grant Crest Energy Kaipara two further consents; to occupy the Coastal Marine Area with 200 generating units on the Kaipara Harbour seafloor and to disturb the foreshore and seabed to bury two seven-kilometre long transmission cables. The cables would run between the 200 generating units and Pouto.

The application – notified in its current form 12 months ago – attracted more than 240 submissions, with an almost even split between those opposing and those supporting the proposal.

Opposing submitters’ concerns largely fell into several categories including potential effects on recreational and commercial fishing and effects on navigation and anchorage. Others concerns included effects on sea life, the physical effects the proposal could have on harbour dynamics (tides, sediment etc) and the submitters’ beliefs there had been inadequate study done and that the technology was untested.

Supporting submissions were based on factors including the sustainability of the resource, the fact it would cut greenhouse gases, help meet New Zealand’s Kyoto Protocol obligations and reduce reliance on fossil fuel plants.

Supporters also felt the proposal for locally-generated electricity would improve the security of power supply in Northland. Once all 200 turbines were in place, they would produce an estimated 200 Megawatts of electricity, enough power for up to 250,000 homes.

In its decision, the Hearings Committee acknowledged there would be some environmental effects from the proposal that were as-yet “unquantifiable”. However, it acknowledged the applicant was proposing an “adaptive management” approach. This would enable the development to proceed in a staged, cautious manner until it could be confirmed those effects would only be minor.

That approach – together with the extensive conditions the Committee was imposing to avoid, remedy or mitigate adverse effects – meant the “nationally important proposal” could proceed.

“The Hearing Committee accepts that the proposal is appropriate because of the renewal and sustainable nature of the power generation, its valuable contribution to the national and regional power supply, New Zealand’s renewable electricity target, government energy policy and international commitments. “

“Providing a generation source north of the Auckland isthmus reduces the risk of power outages north of the isthmus.”


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