27 May 2011

Approval granted for country's largest windfarm

6:29 pm on 27 May 2011

Approval has been granted for New Zealand's largest windfarm near the coast between Raglan and Port Waikato.

Contact Energy will build 168 turbines, producing 507 megawatts of electricity - enough to power 170,000 homes.

A Board of Inquiry was set up to hear Contact Energy's application after the project was called in by the Government, as it was deemed to be of national significance.

In 2009, the project was put on hold three weeks into the consent hearing to allow Contact Energy to revise its plans.

The Environment Ministry says limits on operating noise have been included in the resource consent, plus a number of conditions to protect the local environment.

Waikato District mayor Alan Sanson says while he accepts not everyone in the area will welcome it, wind power is a better alternative to using fossil fuels.

The New Zealand Wind Energy Association says the decision shows that wind is a serious option for power generation in the country and good news for the industry.

However, a local landowner opposed to the project says the economics do not stack up.

Ross Townsend is also opposed to the visual pollution of the 150-metre-high turbines, and the noise and problems associated with their construction.

The decision can be appealed against in the High Court, but only on points of law.

No construction date set

Contact Energy says it is pleasing to get resource consents, but will not commit to a construction date yet and is still studying the board's decision.

The company says no decision has been made on when construction will start, as it depends on market conditions.

Contact says it is unable to say more on the approval, as it is in the process of a $350 million share issue and it cannot be seen to be promoting itself.