S. Island grid upgrade planned

[comment] Transpower is planning a $30-million grid upgrade in Otago to send more power north and hopes to get approval to start the project within a year.

At the Environment Court hearing for the Mahinerangi wind farm yesterday, Transpower
general manager Tim George said Transpower had started a project to look at a lines upgrade in the lower South Island.

Mr George later told the Otago Daily Times Transpower hoped to have the project planning and economic justification completed and lodged with the Electricity Commission by the end of the year.

He said the commission could take about four to five months to decide whether to approve the upgrade. If given the go-ahead work on the upgrade project could take 18 months to two years to complete.

Earlier in yesterday's hearing energy consultant Bill Heaps said if Contact Energy was forced to spill water because of line constraints when the wind farm came on line, power worth $8.96 million per annum would be lost

Mr George said, on rates of return, that level of loss could support an investment in the grid of about $100 million. He said Transpower would have concerns if that amount of water was being spilt and such a loss would indicate an upgrade was needed

He said Transpower still needed to do more work for the upgrade. He estimated the upgrade could cost up to $30 million, but that depended on many factors, including how much work would have to be done on the geo-technical structure of the earth beneath the towers as well as how much of the bottleneck was eliminated.

Contact Energy had appealed the consents of the Mahinerangi wind farm, saying the extra power produced by the wind farm would lead to further bottlenecks at the Roxburgh dam and the

Roxburgh-Naseby link through to the Waitaki Valley. Contact Energy said it was already spilling water due to line bottlenecks.

Mr George hoped to upgrade the line to carry at least 200MW more power.

He said if more generation was going into an area, then Transpower would look at a lines upgrade under its rules of operation. The difficult part was which came first: the lines upgrade or the generation investment.

Transpower had generation development scenarios, which helped in the planning of upgrades.

The $400 million 200MW Mahinerangi wind farm will take about three years to construct.

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