Power companies undeterred by Project Hayes decision

Neil Gillespie
Neil Gillespie
In the wake of the Project Hayes decision, it is business as usual for Contact Energy, weighing up options for hydro development on the Clutha River, and Pioneer Generation, looking at small-scale wind farms.

Meridian's decision to shelve its planned $2 billion wind farm on the Lammermoor Range in the Central Otago has had little impact at this stage on Contact and Pioneer's plans.

Contact Clutha hydro project manager Neil Gillespie said the hydro plans were "at a completely different stage to what Meridian was at when it pulled the plug.

They had a consented project.

"We have yet to narrow down the options and decide on a favoured option and we're quite some time away from even having to think about resource consents," Mr Gillespie said.

Contact has been investigating four main hydro options on the upper and lower Clutha, proposing dams at Tuapeka Mouth, Queensberry, Luggate and Beaumont costing between $300 million and $1.5 billion.

The schemes were mooted more than 20 years ago and originated from proposals by Contact's predecessor, the Electricity Corporation of New Zealand.

Ultimately, the Project Hayes decision would have an impact "when we're looking at starting to build, but we're nowhere near that stage", he said.

In the meantime, the company was consulting the community, and analysing options.

The community's views, technical and engineering studies and the effect on the environment were all factors which would be taken into consideration, Mr Gillespie said.

"Nothing's changed for us in what we're doing because of Meridian's decision."

Pioneer Generation chief executive Fraser Jonker said its plans for wind farms were on a vastly smaller scale than Meridian's.

The Environment Court decision in 2009, which cancelled resource consents for Project Hayes, saying the wind farm was inappropriate in an outstanding natural landscape, had influenced the type of wind farm proposals Pioneer had been investigating.

"We would never attempt to place a wind farm in that type of a landscape because it would be too much of hurdle to get it consented. "The projects we have under more investigation at the moment have taken that sort of landscape into consideration," Mr Jonker said.

Pioneer was still talking to several Otago and Southland farmers about the possibility of constructing small-scale wind farms on rural properties, along similar lines to its nine-turbine Mt Stuart wind farm in South Otago.

- lynda.van.kempen@odt.co.nz


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