Genesis gains consent for Wairarapa mega-wind farm

Resource consents secured for what would be the largest wind farm in New Zealand – but it won't be built for some time.

Genesis Energy has secured resource consents for what would be the largest wind farm in New Zealand, a 286-turbine development in a remote part of the Wairarapa.

However, low demand growth for electricity means it is unlikely to be built for many years.

"With a 10-year lapse period and a 10-year construction period, the Castle Hill wind farm is a long-term development option," chief executive Albert Brantley says in a statement which confirmed there were "no immediate plans to start construction".

Capable of producing 860 megawatts of electricity at full production, the development would dwarf the current largest wind farm in New Zealand, Meridian Energy's 62-turbine West Wind development in the hills west of Wellington.

Castle Hill would be sited north of Masterton and west of Eketahuna and is close to Contact Energy's proposed 177MW wind farm at its Waitahora site, Mighty River Power's proposal for a 318 MW wind farm at Puketo, TrustPower's Tararua wind farm, rated at 161MW, and a Meridian proposal for a 60MW wind development to the south, at Mt Munro.

None is in prospect of being built in the near future.

Opponents had appealed against resource consents granted by the Masterton and Tararua District Councils, the Greater Wellington and Horizons Regional Councils in June last year.

But today's announcement follows the resolution of outstanding issues by mutual agreement rather than Environment Court hearings.

Energy Minister Simon Bridges welcomed the announcement as "a major boost" for renewable energy investment", in line with a target to generate 90 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

"The project brings the total amount of consented renewable electricity generation capacity throughout New Zealand to well over 4000 megawatts, enough to meet almost 30 years of demand," he says.

Genesis looks likely to be the last of the three remaining government-owned electricity companies to go through a process of partial privatisation, with a 49 percent public float of Meridian planned in the third quarter of this year likely to swamp investor appetite for electricity company shares in the short term.

MRP was partially floated at $2.50 a share in May and its share price has languished since, trading up 0.4 percent today at $2.26, below the target range for the listing price of between $2.35 and $2.80.

(BusinessDesk)