New Zealand

New Zealand

Gaining a higher political profile -- New Zealand's largest project yet

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A major wind farm development for New Zealand has been officially announced as the country faces its second major power crisis in three years. Meridian Energy's Te Apiti wind farm of 55 turbines will have a capacity of 82.5-96.25 MW on a 1150 hectare site in the rural Wairarapa, north of Wellington.

"New Zealand's economy depends on a reliable power supply and wind farms will have a key role in providing that reliability. With declining gas reserves and the risk of dry winters, we see development of Te Apiti as a small but significant step," says Meridian chief executive Keith Turner. Assuming a smooth run through the resource consent process, construction could start in early 2004 and full generation get under way by early 2005.

The country's Resource Management Act, which has caused headaches for many projects, is being modified to streamline the consenting of renewable energy projects. There are also strong political moves to tone down some of the environmental and cultural restrictions. Part of the Te Apiti site has already gained consent for 20 turbines and Meridian is looking to extend this.

According to Turner, the Wairarapa site has a high estimated annual production time during the year of 45%. He sees the Te Apiti development as the first of several such proposals to be undertaken by the state-owned electricity generator and retailer.

Once fully commissioned, Te Apiti will contribute almost 10% to the government's target for 2012 of a 30 Peta Joule increase in renewable energy. It will be the country's largest wind farm, triple the size of the 32 MW Tararua plant operated by Trustpower.

There are plans to connect Te Apiti directly to the transmission system. Transpower, which operates transmission in New Zealand's highly deregulated electricity market, welcomes the development. "Interconnection of renewable generation through the grid provides security benefits which cannot be realised by stand-alone projects," says chief executive Ralph Craven

Energy minister Pete Hodgson sees the venture as helping the government to meet its emissions reduction target under the Kyoto protocol and has already announced the provision of carbon credits relating to wind energy production. "Allocating Kyoto emission units to renewables projects like this helps bring them on sooner than they might otherwise arrive. It's a win for the generator, the taxpayer and the environment."

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