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Mercury commits to $256 mln Turitea wind development

Wednesday 27th March 2019

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Mercury NZ plans to start site works for a $256 million wind farm south-east of Palmerston North in August.

The company plans to install 33 Vestas turbines – each with 3.6 megawatt capacity – at the company’s consented site at Turitea on the Tararua Range. The turbines are expected to deliver about 470 gigawatt-hours of electricity annually and will earn Mercury about $30 million a year, assuming an average generation price of $75/MWh.

It is the company’s first wind development, and commissioning is expected to start in late 2020. 

“With this announcement, Mercury has realised the ‘awesome foursome’ of renewables - hydro, geothermal, solar and wind - that enhance our contribution to New Zealand’s green energy future,” chief executive Fraser Whineray said.

“The Turitea wind farm will contribute to New Zealand’s sustainable, low-emissions future, as well as to our country’s energy freedom by making more renewable, kiwi-made electricity available for homes, businesses and vehicles around the country.”

Flat national electricity demand has stalled new generation development in recent years. But signs of underlying demand growth and moves to retire or reduce use of gas-fired plant as part of the country’s emission-reduction effort have seen Tilt Renewables and Meridian Energy advance work on wind projects at Waverley on the southern Taranaki coast and on the Maungaharuru Range north of Napier respectively.

Mercury is the biggest hydro generator in the North Island where it also operates five geothermal plants and has a solar business. It spent almost a decade through 2013 identifying and then consenting wind options in the lower North Island.

In 2011 it was approved to erect 60 turbines at Turitea and the following year was granted consent for 53 turbines on the Puketoi Range 30 kilometres to the east in Wairarapa.

The initial development at Turitea will be the country’s third-largest wind farm with capacity of 119 MW. The project includes construction of a 220 kV transmission line from the Linton substation.

That opens up the area for development of another 27 turbines in the southern part of the Turitea project and longer-term a transmission link east to Puketoi. Whineray said that further work represents another $750 million of potential investment.

“When we break ground for this in a matter of months, it further establishes the Manawatu as New Zealand’s hub for wind energy production. It’s one of the best locations in the world,” he said.


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