Meridian Energy buys South Australia wind farm

Australasia’s largest renewable electricity generator, Meridian Energy Ltd has, through its Australian business operations, purchased the Mt Millar wind farm in South Australia from ASX listed entity Transfield Services Infrastructure Fund (TSI Fund) for A $191 million.

Meridian Chief Executive Mr Tim Lusk said the Mt Millar purchase will make a significant and timely contribution to Meridian’s developing portfolio of renewable energy generation assets in Australia.

“Mt Millar is a great income producing asset. With 70 megawatts (MW) and a wind power purchase agreement that runs through to the end of 2012, Mt Millar is fully operational and will become an important part of our wind energy portfolio, particularly when the power purchase agreements expire and we can take advantage of stronger market prices” Mr Lusk said.

Mr Lusk said the purchase was consistent with Meridian’s plans to grow its investments in Australian renewable energy assets and to add value to the business through both strategic acquisitions or the development of ’greenfield’ opportunities. He noted that assets such as Mt Millar came to market fairly infrequently, and that Meridian was delighted to secure such a high quality asset.

“Meridian is committed to excellence in the renewable energy generation sector,” Mr Lusk said.

“Mt Millar is a good fit with our other renewable energy activities in Australia – including working with AGL on the Macarthur wind farm project – the largest such wind farm in the southern hemisphere,” he said.

“We also believe the new Renewable Energy Target scheme as proposed by the government will, if enacted, provide strong policy settings in Australia for the development of crucial renewable energy sources such as wind. We see our extensive experience in developing and operating wind assets in New Zealand enabling us to transfer skills and expertise to contribute to the growth of this sector in Australia.”

Mr Lusk also acknowledged the role TSI Fund has played in bringing the site into full commercial operation.

Mr Lusk says the company’s investment in Australia would be in addition to its significant renewable energy development activities in New Zealand.

“We are very happy to complete this transaction. It is an important step towards achieving scale and strengthens our evolving position in the Australasian renewables energy market”.

Mt Millar wind farm is located in South Australia approximately 100 km south-west of Whyalla on the Eyre Peninsula. The site extends over a 7 km long escarpment and is located between the towns of Cowell and Cleve.

Mt Millar wind farm consists of 35 x Enercon E-70 2.0MW wind turbines (with an aggregate generation capacity of 70 MW). It produces enough electricity per year to power on average 36,000 Australian households.

Meridian is New Zealand’s largest electricity generator and currently owns and operates nine hydro stations and three wind farms within New Zealand:

* Manapouri power station and eight hydro stations on the Waitaki River in the South Island
* Te Apiti wind farm near Palmerston North
* White Hill wind farm in Southland.
* West Wind farm in Wellington.

Meridian puts significant investment into new renewable energy sources from Wellington’s first wind farm West Wind, through to our most southern wind farm Ross Island (Antarctica).

Meridian also retails electricity to around 188,000 customers throughout New Zealand, which includes households, farms and businesses. It also provides electricity to Rio Tinto Alcan New Zealand Limited; formally Comalco New Zealand Limited, and its aluminium smelter in Bluff is New Zealand’s single largest electricity user.

Meridian has over 1,000 megawatts of New Zealand development opportunities in the resource consent pipeline and has recently commenced construction on the Te Uku wind farm, in Hamilton, New Zealand.

Other overseas interests include the purchase of San Francisco-based Cleantech America for $US5.4 million in August 2009 and the construction of the five-megawatt photovoltaic solar facility in Mendota began in September. This acquisition was a major milestone in the company’s programme to explore solar power and its potential application in markets close to home.

Meridian is also a joint venture partner with AGL in the proposed Macarthur wind farm in south-west Victoria, which has been permitted for 183 wind turbines generating up to 450 MW and is likely to be the largest wind farm in the southern hemisphere