Published on November 9th, 2009 | by Zachary Shahan28
New Zealand Environment Court Says No to Huge Wind Farm
November 9th, 2009 by Zachary Shahan
What would have been the Southern Hemisphere’s largest wind farm, a $2 billion NZD ($1.4 billion USD) and 630 MW wind farm in New Zealand, is not happening because New Zealand’s Environment Court says that it would ruin the surrounding landscape.
This project would have powered over a million homes and made a huge dent in New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. It is not happening now because of a group of NIMBY activists and the Environment Court’s ruling.
This is a huge blow, in itself, to renewable and wind energy proponents, but it also brings concerns for future wind energy projects.
Environment Court Says No to Huge Wind Farm
In its ruling, the court stated: “Despite the potentially large contribution of energy to the national grid, it would be inappropriate to put a huge wind farm in such a nationally important natural landscape.”
The court also questioned whether adequate effort had been put into researching alternative sites for the wind farm.
Project Hayes’ Planned Location & Local Opposition
The wind farm would have been located in the scenic inland region of Central Otago, home to fewer than 20,000 people. The region includes beautiful mountain ranges, rocky gorges and wine-producing vineyards — major tourist attractions. The wind farm would have added 176 wind turbines (each 160-meters-tall) to the region, as well as 12-meter-wide access roads.
Local residents who were opposed to the wind turbines in their backyard filed an appeal in the Environment Court right after the development, called Project Hayes, was approved. As discussed above, the court sided with the local residents.
What Went into Project Hayes & What It Would Have Done?
The largest electricity supplier in New Zealand, Meridian Energy, created the plan for Project Hayes. It spent about $10 million NZD ($7.4 million USD) on planning and preliminary work for the project.
The project would have created enough power to supply every single household on New Zealand’s South Island, over one million people, with all of their power needs.
What Are New Zealand’s Wind Energy Prospects Now?
Meridian said that they may appeal this ruling. So, perhaps, the project is not dead forever. However, with the situation now, this sends a chilling drop in hope to renewable energy proponents in Otago, New Zealand, and even worldwide.
This ruling “might set one of the most important precedents for Central Otago, Otago and New Zealand,” according to Central Otago mayor Malcolm Macpherson. “I wonder whether this is the end of big renewables of any sort, in this part of the country, at least.”
Likewise, Fraser Clark, chief executive of the New Zealand Wind Energy Association, said: “This has the potential to create a far greater loss for all of New Zealand by hindering the development of other renewable energy schemes,” and, “New Zealanders value renewable energy, but this decision has the potential to make it more difficult for other renewable projects to achieve consent.”
This is clearly one of the biggest blows to large-scale wind power we have seen. Will New Zealand pick itself up and move forward with wind power in another location?
Image Credit 1: sektordua via flickr under a Creative Commons license
Image Credit 2: loonatic via flickr under a CC license
Image Credit 3: Dru! via flickr under a CC license
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