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Wellington Wind Farm On Meridian's Generation List

Thursday 2 June 2005

Wellington wind farm on Meridian's new generation list

Meridian Energy announced today it is seeking resource consent to develop a wind farm west of Wellington.

The proposed wind farm, called Project West Wind, has the potential to be the best performing wind farm in the world. It is expected to generate enough electricity to power up to 110,000 average homes, equivalent to every home in Wellington City, Lower Hutt and Porirua.

Project West Wind is expected to have up to 70 turbines with a total capacity of approximately 210 MW, significantly larger than Meridian Energy's 92 MW Te Apiti wind farm north of the Manawatu Gorge. Its generation will be supplied into Transpower's national grid and available for use in the Wellington area, assisting local security of supply.

Project West Wind will be located across 55 square kilometres on Meridian Energy's Quartz Hill property and its neighbour to the south, Terawhiti Station. Meridian Energy Chief Executive Keith Turner says the Project West Wind site has been identified as one of the best in the world for wind farm development.

"Our Project West Wind proposal makes great use of Wellington's world-class wind resource. The site has strong, consistent wind conditions because of the funnelling effect of Cook Strait, making it ideal for wind power generation. Project West Wind would be generating electricity over 90% of the time and operating at full capacity approximately 47% of the time ­ more than double the international average of 23%. This site is so outstanding, no subsidies are required to develop and operate Project West Wind.

"This is a wind farm that we believe people throughout the Wellington region will be proud of. A recent study by UMR Research found that 84% of Wellingtonians were positive about a wind farm in the capital if its design had minimal sound and visual impacts. Our proposal meets those criteria. Most survey participants identified wind farms as their preferred option for new electricity generation. They regard wind power as natural, renewable, clean and a potential new tourist attraction for Wellington," says Dr Turner.

Meridian Energy's decision to consult with the public about Project West Wind comes after extensive research into the possible impacts of the wind farm.

"We have conducted several Assessment of Environmental Effects reports, looking at everything from local ecology, geology and archaeology to construction requirements, noise and visual effect. All of these assessments have influenced the placement of wind turbines," says Dr Turner.

"Finalising wind turbine placement has been a rigorous process. Meridian Energy identified 107 technically and economically feasible wind turbine sites, and removed 37 of these from our proposal. They were taken out to ensure Project West Wind will have minimal impact on local people and local areas of historical or ecological significance. No wind turbines will be visible from Makara Beach, and even for homes where turbines can be seen, the turbines will be at least 750 metres away."

Dr Turner says Meridian Energy will also take measures to reduce the impact of construction activity on communities near the Project West Wind site. "We propose to transport wind turbine equipment to the wind farm site using a barge landing at Oteranga Bay or Ohau Bay." This is a major breakthrough for the project in minimising the effects of transporting large loads through Karori and other western suburbs.

"Meridian Energy is committed to community consultation. Following the success of our consultation on the Te Apiti and White Hill wind farms, we will be holding local open days and providing a range of information on the Project West Wind proposal and wind energy. Our consultation with local stakeholders will be a genuine process where we will address their environmental and resource use concerns. Everyone will have an opportunity to put forward their views on our wind farm proposal, and we encourage people who support the use of wind energy in Wellington to make a submission," says Dr Turner.

The timing of Project West Wind's completion will depend on progress of the resource consents process.

Dr Turner says the Project West Wind proposal is another important step in helping to address New Zealand's impending electricity generation shortfall.

"Demand for electricity is increasing around two percent a year, but supply is constrained, especially with Maui gas reserves depleting rapidly. Meridian Energy is encouraging greater energy efficiency and upgrading our existing generation infrastructure, but these measures are not enough on their own. New Zealand must also pursue new electricity generation projects, and we can use our own renewable resources to meet our energy needs.

"Meridian Energy is committed to renewable energy and will generate electricity using only renewable resources. Currently, wind-farms and hydro power stations are the only proven, environmentally responsible and economically viable means of generating renewable energy on a large scale. They also work extremely well together. When the wind blows we can preserve our hydro storage, and when the wind stops we can quickly bring our hydro plant into play," says Dr Turner.

ENDS

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