Mighty River Power gets Turitea Wind Farm consent, but not before slashing its original proposal — updated

Mighty River Power will get its Turitea wind farm, albeit with only 60 of the 104 turbines originally planned. The board of inquiry released its final decision last week after Mighty River Power lodged resource consent applications back in 2008 to construct, maintain and operate a wind farm in the Turitea Reserve and adjoining farmland near Palmerston North. But the news doesn't necessarily mean the company will go ahead with its construction. 

The approval means 33 turbines will be placed at the northern end of the site with the remaining 27 making their home in the southern end of the site. Each carries a capacity of up to 3MW.The state-owned enterprise put in an eleventh-hour bid to have 12 of the farms reinstated to no avail. 

Over the past few years, the wind farm proposal has been at the centre of severe backlash. Although the location is deemed to be one of the best when it comes to wind generation, fears were raised that it could damage vegetation. Others saw it as a visual blight on the landscape and its proximity to the city didn’t earn it any brownie points either. The consent gives Mighty River Power 10 years to get the project underway. 

According to the board of enquiry report, the wind farm is sited in an area with an “outstanding wind resource” capable of operating with a very high capacity factor of up to 45 percent. 

Whether Mighty River Power decides to go ahead with the wind farm in its smaller form remains to be seen. According to this stuff article, last year the company’s lawyer Karen Price said cutting the scope of the project could result in project delays or the farm not even being built. 

A Mighty River Power spokesperson told Sustain the company has welcomed the board of inquiry's decision. But while it is relieved to have a conclusion, it said it still has to think about the repercussions of a smaller project.

"We will need to assess the implications of the decision on the likely timing of the project, especially given current electricity demand growth. However, it does mean that this world class wind resource will be available for development as market conditions change," said the Mighty River Power spokesperson. "We are disappointed the request to reinstate 12 turbines from our original application has not been upheld, as these would have had a significant positive effect on the economics, efficiency and overall sustainability of the project.  However, we support what has been a robust resource consent process in balancing the needs of all stakeholders."

Wind farms seem to be quite the controversial topic in New Zealand and renewable energy provider Meridian Energy is no stranger to the controversy.  While it may be pushing the benefits of the technology through its series of television commercials with Jeremy Wells,  the last couple of years it’s done the court rounds defending its 630 Megawatt Otago wind farm proposal, Project Hayes, and most recently, its Mill Creek wind farm near Wellington.

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