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Wind Farms Caught in a Catch-22 Situation

Mar 1, 2007 Energy Central

The Press, Christchurch, New Zealand: Wind-farm proposals will not be able to provide much-needed power to the rest of New Zealand unless Central Otago has new transmission lines, Transpower says.

But the national grid operator cannot justify the multi-million- dollar lines until power companies invest in wind farms, and the companies will not pay for new generation capacity if there is no means of storing and transferring it.

With several generation proposals being worked on, a new line was essential so the country could benefit, Transpower general manager of grid investment Tim George said.

The additional capacity from proposals such as a 120-megawatt increase from the Manapouri hydro station, 630MW from Meridian Energy's $2 billion Project Hayes in Central Otago and up to 200MW from TrustPower's proposed 100-turbine wind farm at Lake Mahinerangi, near Dunedin, exceeded the requirements of Otago and Southland, he said.

Several other projects are believed to be in the pipeline, including one from Contact Energy, which declined to give the location of the four potential wind-farm sites it is investigating.

"If you don't get a new line, it will mean water will spill and you won't get all the new generation out of that area," George said.

Contact Energy raised its concerns at an energy conference in Auckland this week, saying it was common for its Roxburgh dam not to be able to supply electricity because of overloaded transmission systems.

It was concerned that new wind farms would congest the transmission lines and displace hydro- generated electricity as wind- generated power had priority access to the lines.

George said the first stage of Project Hayes would not require new lines.

"Beyond that, we'll have to start looking at a new transmission line, obviously at quite a high cost and high impact to landowners," he said. It would probably take seven years for a new line to be constructed.

TrustPower spokesman Graeme Purches said the company would not build generation capacity unless it had the lines to store it.