Wind project dependent on grid upgrade

New Zealand's largest proposed wind farm will not be built unless there is an intended upgrade of the national electricity grid, an Environment Court appeal hearing has been told.

Meridian Energy counsel Andrew Beatson, of Wellington, said yesterday the company's proposed $1.5 billion Project Hayes wind farm on the Lammermoor Range would only be built if it was deemed economically viable.

Mr Beatson said the national grid would have to be upgraded for Project Hayes to go ahead.

"If the project obtains the required resource consents and is assessed by Meridian at that time as commercially viable, then it will be built.

If the expected drivers of economic value changed and the project was assessed to be not commercially viable, Meridian would not go ahead with the development.

"If approved and constructed, Project Hayes will almost certainly result in a grid upgrade.

In fact it [the grid] will have to be upgraded," he said.

A $40 million transmission upgrade in the South Island would accommodate about 650MW-750MW of new wind generation.

If generating wind an estimated 88% of the time, Project Hayes would be able to supply about 263,000 average households with energy each year, Mr Beatson said.

"No sites within New Zealand can match Project Hayes' combination of wind speed and scale . . .

The scale and quality of resource found at this site [on the Lammermoor Range] is only likely to be matched at a few sites world-wide," he said.

Mr Beatson said Project Hayes would benefit the population on a national and local level.

Additional economy and employment opportunities, diversification of rural land use, upgrading of roads, boosted visitor numbers and the establishment of a community development fund would be to the wider Maniototo's advantage.

New Zealand's growing demand for electricity would be ensured by Project Hayes, which would also help reduce its dependence on non-renewable fuel sources, he said.


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