Contact’s Dannevirke wind farm plans shot down

Contact Energy’s plan to build the largest wind turbines in New Zealand near Dannevirke has been blown away by electricity commissioners, who have turned down the power giant’s application to erect 65 of the turbines.

Contact lodged a joint application to Tararua District and Horizons Regional Councils to erect the wind farm on a 3600 ha site in the Waitahora valley south east of Dannevirke, with the hearing into the case wrapping up last month.

At 150m tall, the turbines would have been the largest to be erected in this country, with a generational capacity of 177MW and likely annual generation in the range of 700GWh.

The company was planning to spend $500 million on the farm, which would have produced enough electricity to power up to 86,000 homes.

But commissioners Vern Chettelburgh, David Lea and Chris Mitchell have turned down the application after hearing nine days of submissions.

During the hearing, 25 submissions were heard, with 24 opposing the wind farm.
Submitters opposing the wind farm cited the effect on water quality in the area, doubts over the claimed economic benefits of the wind farm, the noise the farm would create, increased traffic during construction and the usual complaints of visual pollution.

The reaction of thoroughbred horses to wind turbines was also highlighted, with one submitter claiming the wind farm raised a “significant potential danger” to the health of horses on a nearby farm, as thoroughbreds were particularly susceptible to ‘flight’ reaction to perceived threats from unaccustomed sights and sounds.

In making their decision to refuse all applications related to the consent, the commissioners said that the wind farm had “significant potential adverse effects which are not fully understood”, so they could not be avoided or mitigated by conditions.

Noting that a number of submitters made it clear that they would oppose any wind farm, the commissioners emphasised that their decision related only to the current proposal and the information provided to support of it, and there was still an opening for a future wind farm proposal for this site which could be assessed differently.

Contact Energy spokesman Jonathon Hill tells NBR that the company is likely to appeal the decision in the near future.

“Our view is that the more substantive points in the decision can be addressed and we will be seeking to clarify some of those points before making a decision, but it is likely we will appeal the decision once we have that clarification.”

Contact has been showing its commitment to wind farms in the past week, with the revelation that it has been buying up land in the Franklin District as part of its strategy to build the country’s largest windfarm on the coast from Port Waikato to Raglan.

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