Meridian commits $169m to new Wellington wind farm
BUSINESSDESK: Meridian Energy has given the green light to building a new $169 million wind farm in the Ohariu Valley between Wellington and Porirua cities, following on from the success of its West Wind development just to the south.
The 26-turbine Mill Creek development is expected to generate electricity from mid-2014 at the bottom end of the cost range for wind farms, making it competitive with new geothermal electricity generation at around $80 per Megawatt hour.
The strong New Zealand dollar, weakening global steel prices and competitive pricing from wind plant manufacturing combined to support the case for the relatively small wind farm at a time when bigger projects are being shunned because of slow demand growth for electricity in the sluggish local economy.
Meridian's announcement coincides with World Wind Day.
The most valuable of the state-owned power suppliers, it hopes to be second in line for partial privatisation after the sale of up to 49% of competitor Mighty River Power, which is scheduled to occur by September 30, assuming favourable market conditions.
Legislation allowing the asset sales to proceed passed its second reading in Parliament yesterday, with the committee stages and formal third reading likely to conclude next week.
Mill Creek is estimated to cost $3.3 million annually to operate and to generate an average 235 Gigawatt hours of electricity annually, benefitting from the consistency and strength of winds generated by the funnelling effect of Cook Strait.
"Mill Creek is a very strong commercial proposition,” Meridian chief executive Mark Binns said.
“We believe the combination of the wind farm’s relatively small size, location and compelling economics sets a benchmark for the industry.”
Like the 142.6 MW West Wind farm, Mill Creek was expected to be "one of the most productive wind farms in the world,” said Binns.
Mill Creek wind farm will be located on privately-owned farms in Ohariu Valley. The landowners selected Meridian to develop and operate the project because of its strong track record of developing and constructing renewable projects.
Meridian gained resource consents in 2010 and won appeals in the Environment Court against the project last August.