Carbon credits sale wins Dutch finance -- Big orders down under

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Hot on the heels of announcing a major turbine supply agreement with NEG Micon, New Zealand utility Meridian Energy has concluded a deal to sell carbon credits to offset emissions in the Netherlands under the Dutch government's Emissions Reductions Unit Procurement Tender (ERUPT) program. The carbon credits will be sourced from Meridian's first full scale wind project, the 90 MW Te Apiti wind farm in the north of New Zealand's Manawatu Gorge, near Wellington. It will comprise of 55 of the 105 NEG Micon 1.65 MW turbines Meridian has ordered from Denmark.

It is the first such sale of New Zealand's Kyoto credits and means the utility gains partial Dutch financing for the wind farm -- one of 15 projects granted the right to trade Kyoto Protocol carbon credits as part of the New Zealand government's strategy to reduce carbon emissions. While details of the volume and value of the ERUPT agreement remain "commercially sensitive," it provides an "important" boost to the financial viability of Te Apiti, says Meridian.

According to Meridian's Alan Seay, the Dutch government says that even if the Kyoto Protocol does not enter into force, it will honour such agreements as part of its own climate change strategy. The New Zealand government says it will scrap its carbon credit plan if the protocol is not implemented.

Providing enough electricity to supply 32,000 homes, Te Apiti will be New Zealand's first wind farm to supply electricity to Transpower's national grid. In New Zealand's strong winds, the wind station will have a load factor of 45%, almost double the international norm. Meridian says it will provide a significant contribution to the planned national goal for renewables of 30 Petajoules by 2012. The target has been criticised by Greenpeace. Over ten years it is "equivalent to a mere 0.65% per annum of the current total consumer energy use," says the environment group.

Seay says he is confident Denmark's NEG Micon is on track to get the first turbines up by April despite its merger with fellow Danish manufacturer Vestas. Site work is underway and the wind farm should start generating electricity as early as the spring, with full commercial operation in early 2005, he says.

Up to 600 MW

The Te Apiti turbine supply order was announced by NEG Micon together with an order for 50, 1.65 MW units (with the option of a further nine) for Meridian's planned Wattle Point Wind Farm in Yorke Peninsula, South Australia. The orders for Te Apiti and Wattle Point alone are worth almost NZ$300 million (EUR 150 million). "The ability to do a deal for turbine supply to two sites has made a significant impact on wind farm viability in Australasia," comments Meridian's Keith Turner. The orders are the first under a framework agreement for the turbine manufacturer to supply up to 600 MW to Meridian for projects in both New Zealand and Australia over the next six years.

NEG Micon is expected to supply turbines from its manufacturing base in Portland, Victoria. Its merger with Vestas could also mean turbines are supplied from Vestas' A$15 million assembly plant in Wynyard, Tasmania. Able to turn out nacelles for 75-110 turbines a year, the plant was officially opened towards the end of last year.

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