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Meridian commits to third Australian wind farm

BUSINESSDESK: Meridian Energy, one of the state-owned power companies slated for partial sale, is to start construction of its third wind farm in Australia, with the 131 megawatt Mt Mercer project in the state of Victoria.

Mt Mercer is a 64-turbine wind farm 30km south of the town of Ballarat with a construction cost of about $A260 million.

The two-year project will begin in December and the commitment follows chief executive Mark Binns's recent comments that the company's best opportunities for investment new generation are offshore.

Mt Mercer will add to the Meridian owned-and-operated Mt Millar wind farm in South Australia and its project with AGL Energy to build the 420 MW Macarthur wind farm in western Victoria, which is touted as the largest in the southern hemisphere.

"Wind is well positioned in Australia as the most viable renewable generation technology," chief financial officer Paul Chambers says.

"Australia's renewable energy targets requiring approximately one-fifth of electricity generation be produced from renewable sources by 2020 means that generation with a total capacity of more than 80% of New Zealand's entire generation base must be built in Australia by 2020."

Meridian has contracted with Repower to provide the turbine technology, Downer EDI for construction and Powercor for the transmission lines at Mt Mercer, he says.

Mr Binns has said previously that, unlike Macarthur, the Mr Mercer project is 100% Meridian, with no offtake agreements in place for its production.

The company is also trialling its Powershop retail business in Australia, which it says may be "a natural adjunct" to its renewable energy assets across the Tasman.