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New Zealand

New Zealand

First one hundred megawatt

Meridian Energy's Te Apiti wind farm, the first in New Zealand to use megawatt scale turbines, is now providing 28 MW of power to the national grid. Seventeen of the 26 installed 1.65 Vestas turbines are now commissioned, with the full complement of 55 expected to be sending power through to Transpower's Woodville substation by the end of the year. The development brings the country's current total wind generation up to almost 100 MW.

By the time the full 90 MW is online and expansions to other wind stations are complete, the nation's total energy contribution from wind will reach 167 MW -- and will continue to rise. Meridian has announced plans for a 70 MW wind farm at White Hill in Southland. This will be the South Island's first large scale wind development and is planned for forestry land.

The resource consent hearing for White Hill may prove difficult, but Meridian has had a reasonable track record in gaining consent for its wind farms. Furthermore, a survey by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) shows 82% support for wind energy in New Zealand, though concerns were noted regarding turbines being unreliable, unsightly and noisy. EECA has also recently released guidelines for local authorities in looking at consent issues, attempting to ensure that wind gets a smooth passage through the process.

Consenting has proved a problem for Windflow Technology, New Zealand's lone turbine company. Its on again-off again prototype 500 kW machine at Gebbies Pass above Christchurch has been the constant subject of noise complaints from neighbours in the sparsely settled region. It has been stopped for breaching noise regulations, for testing, refitting, checking, and further testing since its start-up in 2003. Windflow was recently rapped over the knuckles by the New Zealand Stock Exchange for its late filing of the announcement of its annual report, but met the deadline to report a full year loss of NZ$ 1.4 million.

Despite the troubles, Windflow and its related development company, NZ Windfarms, remain confident about their plans for the 100 turbine Te Rere Hau development for the Tararua area near Palmerston North, using the Windflow technology. While the on-going mechanical issues have slowed development, the company still has plans for phased construction of the locally produced turbines developed by Windflow CEO, engineer Geoff Henderson.

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