New Zealand’s largest project wind farm

Power enough to drive 370,000 homes is still blowing in the North Wairarapa wind, says an electric company with plans for a huge wind farm. Genesis Energy last week applied for resource consents for Castle Hill Wind farm – to be based on a large hilltop site that straddles Masterton and Tararua districts.

The wind farm would be New Zealand’s largest by a considerable margin. It involves up to 286 wind turbines, potentially producing 860 megawatts of electricity. According to Genesis this is equivalent to that consumed each year by 370,000 average New Zealand homes.

Four local government bodies must sign off on the project because of the unique location of the Castle Hill site. In addition to being on the boundary between Masterton and Tararua district councils, Castle Hill also bridges the regional councils of Greater Wellington and Horizons Manawatu-Wanganui. Each must provide approval under the Resource Management Act 1991 and each council’s regional or district plan.

Genesis Energy chief executive Albert Brantley said the company is developing a portfolio of "new electricity generation options". If commercially viable, these wind energy projects would provide opportunities for Genesis "to grow and renew its generation assets" over the next 10 years.

The district plan for Tararua, which has significant wind energy development already, makes specific provision for wind farms. Its policy balances two aims: "To recognise the local, regional and national benefits" of wind farms and other renewable energy. To fix, minimise or avoid "adverse effects on the environment" of wind farms.

These are listed as involving "amenity values, landscape ecology, noise and traffic", with the conclusion that wind farms "may therefore be inappropriate in some locations". The existing Tararua Wind Farm – currently New Zealand’s most productive – is located on 700ha of private sheep and beef farming land high in the Tararua Ranges. It has 103 wind turbines, each with three 23.5m blades, and 31 large wind turbines each with three 45m blades. It has a total wind power capacity of 160 megawatts.

Gerald Ford,