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Contact unveils Waikato wind farm

16 October 2007

Contact unveils Waikato wind farm

Contact Energy Chief Executive David Baldwin today provided details of a new wind farm the company is developing on farmland to the south of Port Waikato. The wind farm will be known as Hauāuru mā raki, meaning ‘north-west wind’.

David Baldwin said the proposed wind farm was strategically important as it was located in the North Island and close to major load centres of Hamilton and Auckland. He said the final size of the wind farm was yet to be determined, but it has the potential to be up to 650 megawatts (MW) depending on a number of factors including landowner agreements and resource consenting.

“We have been developing this project together with Wind Farm Group over the course of 2007 and have been pleased with the response to this project from landowners and other stakeholders.

“Hauāuru mā raki is nationally significant both in terms of meeting New Zealand’s growth in demand for electricity and for the development of clean, renewable electricity for current and future generations,” he said.

“This development is part of Contact’s investment programme in renewable electricity generation, which also includes significant expansion of the company’s geothermal generation near Taupo.”

If the full 650 MW capacity of the project was developed, the project could produce enough electricity to power approximately 250,000 homes and help avoid the production of around 1.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere per annum.

Mr Baldwin said Contact is continuing to defer investment decisions on its consented 400 MW Otahuhu C gas-fired power station in order to focus on renewable generation. However, he noted that renewable projects needed to be actively supported by efficient resource consenting processes, including greater use of call in powers, if the country was to continue to avoid the need for new thermal plants.

“The vision of 90 per cent of New Zealand’s electricity coming from renewables now hinges to a large extent on the ability to consent renewable projects without undue delay and connect them to the national transmission system. Active support for renewables from regulatory agencies will be very important to this vision being realised.”

Mr Baldwin said the proposed site is suited to a wind farm as it has a good wind resource and the surrounding areas are very lightly populated.

“We have been discussing this project with national and local stakeholders and are now looking to discuss the project with interested members of the public. We’re committed to developing the project in a transparent fashion and to engaging fully with the local community. 2

“We see this as a very positive development for the Waikato region, including for the landowners involved in the project. We have been particularly pleased with the response from Maori landowners who have enthusiastically welcomed the project.”

Analysis conducted into the economic benefits of the wind farm suggests that in excess of $100 million could be injected into the local Waikato economy over the approximately four to five year construction period, followed by millions of dollars each year when the wind farm is operating. Around 450 jobs are likely to be created in the area during the construction phase.

Mr Baldwin said although a great deal of progress had been made on the wind farm, there was more work to be done.

“We are continuing to negotiate further landowner agreements for the project, in addition to the technical work required in order to file a resource consent application by the end of the year.”

Supporting wind with peaking capacity

Alongside the wind farm, Contact announced its intention to construct a flexible, fast-start 100 MW gas-fired peaking plant at the company’s Stratford power station site to help support increasing levels of wind generation during demand peaks and periods of low wind or hydro generation.

Mr Baldwin said Contact had welcomed the release of the New Zealand Energy Strategy last week and supported the conclusion that renewables could substitute out large baseload thermal plant. “It is for this reason the option of developing the company’s Otahuhu combined cycle baseload plant remains on hold while the company focuses on new wind and geothermal projects,” he said.

“The Energy Strategy delineates between baseload and flexible thermal plant designed to support a high renewables future. This new investment is the beginning of a transition to the types of thermal plant New Zealand will need to achieve the Government’s target of 90 per cent renewable energy by 2025.

“To achieve the 90 per cent target over the next 15 - 20 years, older thermal plants would need to either close or move into a back-up role. The more modern existing baseload gas plants would play the major thermal baseload role to the extent that renewables could not provide that capacity.

“The new plant at Stratford will be very efficient and will run ahead of the existing New Plymouth gas-fired station. New Plymouth is a slow start station. The new plant will mean New Plymouth will move more to a dry year reserve role.”

Mr Baldwin said the new peaking plant would likely cost around $140 million and could be operating by 2009.

More information on the proposed wind farm development is available on Contact’s website at www.contactenergy.co.nz/waikatowind.

ENDS

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