Meridian plans Australian wind farm

Meridian Energy has joined forces with an Australian generation company to build a wind farm in Victoria that will be the biggest in the southern hemisphere if Project Hayes does not proceed.

Meridian and AGL said yesterday the 420MW Macarthur wind farm in southwest Victoria would cost about $NZ1.25 billion and would be completed in 2013.

Meridian external communications manager Claire Shaw said yesterday all the consents needed for that project had been obtained.

The company is awaiting a decision on the future of Meridian's $2 billion, 630MW Project Hayes wind farm on the Lammermoor Range.

An appeal against the Environment Court decision that declined consents for the wind farm was heard in the High Court at Dunedin over five days in June. Justices Lester Chisholm and John Fogarty reserved their decision on the appeal.

Ms Shaw said Meridian was awaiting the outcome of that hearing but Project Hayes was still an "active project".

There was no suggestion the Australian venture was a replacement option if Project Hayes did not proceed.

The company's involvement with the Macarthur wind farm would be beneficial if the Lammermoor Range wind farm did go ahead, she said.

"We'll have built up a good relationship with such people as the turbine suppliers and will be able to get the best deals, and our experience there will be of benefit to our other wind generation projects."

Commercially, it was the right time to be investing in Australian renewable energy projects.

Recent changes to Australia's Renewable Energy Target legislation, which obliged retailers to obtain a fixed proportion of their overall energy sales from renewables, gave Meridian and AGL added confidence in the viability of the project, she said.

Meridian had known of the Macarthur wind farm proposal for almost a decade and had revisited the project from time to time.

"AGL has very complementary skills and the same aspirations as us."

The New Zealand company would have a 50% share of the project, and would continue to pursue projects in this country, Ms Shaw said.

The Macarthur wind farm is 230km west of Melbourne and will have 140 turbines.

There are three properties involved and the companies have 25-year leases over the land needed, with a 25-year right to extend.

Meridian already owns a wind farm in south Australia - Mt Millar in Eyre Peninsula, as well as three in this country - White Hill in northern Southland, Te Apiti near Palmerston North and West Wind in Wellington.



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