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New Zealand

New Zealand

DODGING THE PITFALLS

New Zealand should be able to learn from the last decade of European wind farm commercialisation and avoid many of the problems and pitfalls encountered in overseas development. Such is the hope expressed by Andrew Garrad, director of newly launched Garrad Hassan Pacific. The new company recently undertook a two week tour of the major and minor players in the New Zealand wind energy scene and believes there is significant potential for development of wind energy.

There have been some glitches already, though. The rejection of a wind farm proposed at Baring Head (see main story) was pointed to by Garrad as representative of the unpredictable social aspects of wind development. "That project could have been seen as Wellington's and New Zealand's welcome to its visitors -- a firm statement of its approach to its environmental responsibilities. It could also have been seen as a blot on the landscape and an obvious candidate for environmental objection by a well orchestrated and articulate minority. The fact that the official verdict was the latter is not a surprise to the European wind energy community -- we have been there before." He suggests that early demonstration wind farms would go a long way to allay the fears of local community and planning authorities concerning the visual or noise pollution aspects of wind development.

Like many New Zealand enthusiasts, Garrad sees the country's wind conditions as "wonderful" while recognising the problems of the extremely high mean wind speeds. He warns that local developers will need to carefully assess the suitability of turbines and equipment supplied from overseas to ensure they can survive. The only other comparable sites are the new developments in Costa Rica and Scotland. "There is no other country with such a high level of hydroelectricity which is unconnected to another -- and which has any significant experience of wind," he comments, agreeing some aspects of the New Zealand wind business will be a new experience.

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