TrustPower believes its scheme 'much more viable'

Major wind farms could still become a feature of Otago and Southland landscapes. TrustPower's board is expected next month to approve the first stage of its Mahinerangi project, near Dunedin, and it is feeling more comfortable about the Kaiwera Downs project near Gore.

Yesterday's Environment Court decision has raised expectations Kaiwera will proceed.

"We always believed Kaiwera was just viable but with Project Hayes [rejected], it is certainly looking much more viable," company spokesman Graeme Purches said.

He was not surprised Project Hayes had been rejected and hinted Meridian Energy had misjudged by heralding its project as one of the biggest and most important in the world.

TrustPower was "careful" not to build wind farms that were too big. The less intrusive a project, the better, he said.

"We're not into Think Big."

The power company wants to start building the first 30MW stage of its Mahinerangi wind farm early next year, although it is not yet known exactly when the development will be finished and producing electricity.

Mr Purches said the move was highlighted in its recent six-month report and a full business plan was expected to be signed at the next meeting in December.

Contact Energy, another company with major power-generation plans in Central Otago, said the decision clearly showed electricity transmission was the biggest issue facing any plans for large-scale development in the area.

Contact will early next year unveil plans for at least one major hydro-electricity dam on the Clutha River. But spokesman Jonathan Hill was unsure if the Project Hayes decision would have any effect on the company's ambitions.

Facing up to and addressing transmission capacity issues would be key, he said.

"Certainly, the issue with building large-scale generation of any sort in Central Otago region - transmission will be the most critical issue."

Contact had confidence Transpower's push to address transmission issues on the national grid would address the present constraints.

Mr Hill did not want to comment further until he had received and read the decision.

Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee did not return calls, while Infrastructure Minister Bill English, who was visiting Balclutha, said he did not want to say anything until he had seen why the wind-farm proposal had been rejected.


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