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No towers will be built for Transpower's planned grid upgrade in Central Otago.
Transpower grid development manager Tim George told the Environment Court's Mahinerangi wind farm hearing this week Transpower had started an investigation into upgrading the line, which runs from Roxburgh through Naseby into the Waitaki Valley.
Contact Energy had wanted conditions placed on consents for TrustPower's Mahinerangi wind farm to overcome constraints at a transformer at the Roxburgh dam substation, and the 220kv line from Roxburgh through Naseby and Waitaki Valley.
Presenting evidence, Mr George said a working group had started looking at the lower South Island link. With power coming on line from the Mahinerangi wind farm and Project Hayes, doubts had been raised whether the lines had the capacity to get all the power north.
Mr George hoped to have the project planning and the economic justification completed and lodged with the Electricity Commission by the end of the year.
He expected the commission to take four to five months to decide on approving the upgrade. He estimated the project could cost about $30 million and carry about 200MW. If approved, work on the project could take between 18 months and two years.
A Transpower spokeswoman confirmed no new towers would be built if the upgrade went ahead.
The ground where the towers sit would have to be checked to see if it was secure enough to carry extra wires.
The increased power load through to the Waitaki Valley would be carried by duplexing wires hanging off existing towers.
New towers to upgrade the transmission link from Whakamuru, in Waikato, to Otahuhu, in Auckland, have caused much controversy.
More than 1100 submissions have been made to a board of inquiry, which is hearing the matter.