Plug pulled on Project Hayes

January 20, 2012

After six years of environmental hearings, Meridian Energy has pulled the plug on its Project Hayes wind farm on the Lammermoor Range.

Project Hayes was by far the country’s largest wind farm project when it was first announced, and envisaged a 633.3 Megawatt station with 176 turbines stretching across a plain that is both barren and ecologically important. 

Lovers of the sparsely populated area’s vast landscapes, including former All Black Anton Oliver and painter Grahame Sidney, were among chief opponents of the project, and were the reason the Environment Court turned down Meridian’s application in 2006.

The resource consents granted in 2007 were challenged in the Environment Court, which cancelled them, leading Meridian to appeal the cancellation in a process that had been ongoing until today.  . .

It appears Binns viewed Project Hayes as an expensive legacy issue, which was potentially unwinnable, and he said the economics of the project had become less attractive.

“Our portfolio has developed considerably and our review showed us that other projects now are a higher commercial priority than Project Hayes,” said Binns in a statement.

“Meridian now has a number of potential development options that would be progressed ahead of Project Hayes. Withdrawing the consent applications is not only the most prudent commercial decision for Meridian, but also avoids prolonging uncertainty about this project for the community and the project’s supporters.”

Total costs over the nearly six years the issue has been live amounted to $8.8 million, of which $7.2 million would be written off in the forthcoming annual accounts.

It was a very controversial project which attracted strong opposition but it also had strong support from some locals.

It has cost the company a lot of money and it was also expensive for those opposing it.

The project was started by then- CEO Keith Turner who was also behind Project Aqua, Meridian’s attempt at hydro development on the Lower Waitaki River. Investigations for that were estiamted to have cost the comapny about $95 million before it was canned, although that included purchases of land which were subsequently sold at a profit.

One of the arguments for partial privatisation is that it will impose more rigor on companies which are now 100% owned by the state.

I wonder if the company would have attempted to do this development had a minority shareholding been in private hands and whether that would make a difference in future?


Contact’s eyeing the Clutha

August 9, 2008

Contact Energy is investigating more dams on the Clutha River.

Contact Energy’s Wellington-based communications manager Jonathan Hill said the power company was “taking a close look again” at old proposals which had been on the back burner, such as those involving sites at Beaumont, Luggate and Queensberry.

… Mr Hill said Contact did not have any firm plans in place and was simply looking at all of its options.

“However, we have a clear preference that any new hydro developments should be on rivers that already have hydro schemes on them, to avoid altering virgin rivers.”

Beaumont, Luggate and Queensberry on the Clutha River had all been proposed as possible sites.

Mr Hill said they were the only river schemes that Contact was actively looking at as the plans had already been drawn up by the previous owner, ECNZ.

“I think its a very important point to make that if we do identify a project that we would like to advance, the first steps will be to discuss it with local communities.

“The role of new, large-scale hydro projects will be particularly important in an environment in which there is growing concern around climate change and sustainability and in which traditional thermal fuels such as gas are becoming increasingly expensive,” he added.

The increase in thermal generation has been a major contributor to the increase in our carbon emissions. But the difficulty of getting through the Resource Management Act makes the development of new wind and hydro generation a long, involved and expensive process.

The Environment Court appeal against Meridian Energy’s  application consent for its Project Hayes windfarm in the Lammermoor Range has been adjourned until January.

Its Project Aqua on the south of the Waitaki River never got to the consent stage but the company is now looking at a scheme on the north bank.

This winter’s power crisis was avoided by conservation measures and timely rainfalls, but at great cost to businesses and the economy.

Conservation measures can only do so much, if we want to be a first world country with a first world economy so we can afford first world social and environmental initiatives, we need first world power supplies and that means more generation.

If the past is any guide there will be fierce oppostion to more dams on the Clutha. But if we have to reduce carbon emissions and nuclear generation is neither popular nor practical then we have to accept more wind and/or hydro schemes.


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