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Support for wind farms strong but not guaranteed

30 August 2005

Community support for wind farms strong but not guaranteed

More than 300 attendees at the New Zealand Wind Energy Association (NZWEA) annual conference today heard that public opinion surveys consistently show wind energy is New Zealand’s preferred from of electricity.

Six surveys across New Zealand over the last 10 years show support consistently running at between 60 and 80 per cent for wind energy - a level in excess of that for any other form of generation.

Svend Auken, the Vice President of the Danish Parliament and architect of the Danish Government’s wind industry, told the conference that if communities were treated with respect wind energy would continue to enjoy very strong public support.

“Wind energy has enjoyed consistently high levels of support in my country. The level of support for wind today is as high as it was when we founded our wind industry 15 years ago and, like in New Zealand, this support is higher than it is for any other form of generation.

“I am not surprised that wind is far and away the most preferred way of generating electricity in New Zealand and, if the industry maintains its professionalism, I would only expect this support to grow,” said Mr Auken.

“New Zealand has among the best wind resource in the world. Additionally, New Zealand also has a chronic need for clean, renewable energy which wind is perfectly positioned to supply.”

Mr Auken was followed by a number of New Zealand speakers. Charmaine Watts, from the community wind farm support group Waiuku in Support of wind Energy (WISE), spoke of the experiences of her community with the Genesis Awhitu wind farm proposal.

In order to get accurate data on the degree of local support for the wind farm proposal, WISE carried out a rigorous and statistically valid survey of public opinion in the community.

“A questionnaire was sent to 500 randomly selected households and the results show that a significant majority of the community support the Awhitu wind farm with only a small proportion opposing it.”

Ms Watts noted it was this very small proportion who were most vocal against the proposal.

James Glennie, Chief Executive of the NZWEA, said the New Zealand wind industry is extremely fortunate to have the high level of public support that it currently enjoys, but warned that this support needed to be continuously earned.

“What is clear from today’s presentations is that the level of community support for wind energy is very strong but must not be taken for granted. The wind industry is at a critical stage in its development. If we foster the support we already have, as other countries have clearly done, wind energy will continue to enjoy unparalleled levels of public support,” he said.

In 2004 the wind industry was the fastest growing energy sector in New Zealand with growth of more than 300 per cent. 200 MW of new capacity has been consented in the last seven months and 607 MW, including the West Wind project, is currently in the resource consent process. The NZWEA has more than 60 members including some of New Zealand’s largest electricity generators, retailers and distribution companies.

ENDS

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