Mercury has consent for 60 turbines at its proposed Turitea wind farm.
Mercury's resource consent application for Turitea was publicly notified on 24 January 2009, and submissions closed on 23 February 2009. The project was called into a Board of Inquiry, which began its hearing on 6 July 2009.
During the hearing concerns emerged about the visual effects of the proposed wind farm and the proximity of some turbines to private homes. The Board acknowledged that removing turbines could affect the economic viability of the project and so adjourned the hearing in October 2009 to allow Mercury time to revise the layout in light of the concerns.
Mercury's revised layout was for a maximum of 104 wind turbines, with a maximum capacity of 288MW. The original application was for 122 turbines, with a combined capacity of 360 megawatts.
The Board resumed its hearing in March 2010 to consider the revised layout. The hearing concluded on the last day of March.
The Board limited the number of turbines to 60 in its final decision.
About 'call-in' and the Board of Inquiry
Turitea was the third wind farm ‘called in' under the RMA. The other two wind farms called in were Contact Energy's proposed Hauauru Ma Raki wind farm in the Waikato and Unison's Te Waka project in the Hawkes Bay.
The Resource Management Act gives the Minister for the Environment the ability to call in a resource consent application and refer it to either a Board of Inquiry or the Environment Court. The procedures used by a Board of Inquiry and the Environment Court are similar; a hearing is held, submitters have an opportunity to be heard and cross examination may be permitted. The decision reached by a Board of Inquiry or the Court can be appealed only on a point of law to the High Court.
The Minister for the Environment chose to refer Turitea to a Board of Inquiry rather than the Environment Court because he considered the process for the board is more informal and better for submitters who may not have legal representation.
Commencement of construction
In March 2019 Mercury announced it would commence construction of the North section of the Turitea Wind Farm with commissioning in late 2020. The north section comprises 33 3.6MW Vestas turbines with a total capacity of 119MW and an annual average generation of 470GWh.
This $256 million investment decision signalled Mercury’s direct entry into New Zealand wind generation.
In November 2019 Mercury committed to the expansion at the southern end of the Turitea site of a further 27 turbines with a total capacity of 103MW at a cost of $208 million.
The Turitea Wind Farm will be New Zealand’s largest wind farm with a total capacity of 222MW. Once operational, the average annual generation will be 840GWh. The electricity generated will meet the annual electricity needs of approximately 118,000 average homes or over 370,000 electric vehicles.
The wind farm could avoid 818,000 tonnes of C02 per year if this electricity were to be generated from a coal-fired plant or 382,000 tonnes in avoided gas fired generation.
About the site
The site for Turitea is approximately 10 kilometres south-east of Palmerston North primarily along a 14-kilometre ridge in the northern Tararua Ranges.
The wind resource at the Tararua Ranges is exceptional, due to the high average wind speeds at elevated locations. Results of existing wind farms along the Tararua Ranges indicate that this area is in the top 5% of wind sites world-wide, and the wind resource is more consistent than the average location in continental Europe.
Board of Inquiry information on the Ministry for the Environment's website, including evidence, reports and hearing transcripts.
Minister for the Environment's announcement regarding the call in of Turitea.
To see where the wind farm would be sited, change the view to satellite and zoom in.