New Zealand gives green light to wind farm

Contact Energy has won approval to build a NZ$500m (US$371m) wind farm on the North Island of New Zealand, the company said today.

The Environment Court has granted all the consents and wind turbines locations the company sought for its proposed 156 MW Waitahora wind power development in southern Hawke’s Bay.

The proposed wind power project is in the Puketoi Range, south-east of Dannevirke, and will generate enough electricity for up to 70,000 homes.

Contact Energy originally applied for consent for the wind farm in August 2008, but was declined by the local council after farmers raised concerns over the effect on landscape, cultural heritage, livestock and indigenous species.

The firm has significantly refined the wind energy project to address the concerns, removing a number of wind turbines and reducing construction traffic.

The proposal was scaled back from 65 wind turbines to either 58 125-metre wind turbines or 52 150-metre wind turbines.

The planning approval represents the second major boost to Contact Energy’s renewable energy programme in recent weeks after the firm last month received preliminary approval for its proposed 250 MW Tauhara II geothermal generation development in the central region of the North Island.

New Zealand’s recently introduced emissions trading scheme means such projects can gain credits and sell them into the domestic market to raise additional funds.