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Castle Hill’s potential for 200 new jobs

The Hau Nui Wind Farm near Martinborough. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

Turbines still on the table

A project to build up to 286 turbines at Castle Hill may yet get wind in its sails as Genesis Energy assesses its renewable generation options.

Castle Hill, southeast of Eketahuna, would be the largest wind farm in the country if Genesis went ahead with the project.

In 2011, when Genesis applied for resource consent, the Times-Age reported that the project could provide 185 jobs during construction, and 40 ongoing jobs.

The project was also forecast to bring $247 million into the Masterton and Tararua districts.

On Friday, Genesis announced that it was assessing 6000 GWh worth of renewable generation options for development.

It had started a Request for Proposal [RFP] process with 11 partners.

A Genesis spokesperson said that although Genesis had no immediate construction plans for Castle Hill, their existing consents provided an opportunity for large scale wind capacity to be added.

“Existing consents are until 2023, and Castle Hill remains an option alongside other new renewable electricity builds Genesis will be considering and evaluating to meet our Science Based Targets.”

In December, Genesis committed to removing at least 1.2 million tonnes of annual carbon emissions in the next five years – the equivalent of removing more than 272,000 petrol cars from the road for one year.

Genesis updated its Future-gen strategy to reflect the commitment and aimed to secure 2650 GWh per annum of renewable electricity generation by 2030.

“We have intentionally kept our options open across a variety of technologies and a number of partners, with a focus on solar, wind, and geothermal generation,” Genesis chief trading officer Shaun Goldsbury said.

The Times-Age calculated that the Castle Hill Wind Farm alone could generate all the energy needed to meet Genesis’ aim of 2650 GWh per annum.

Across its 286 turbines, Castle Hill would have a capacity of 860 MWh, according to the New Zealand Wind Energy Association.

New Zealand wind farms generated at an average of about 40 per cent of their rated output, the equivalent of 9.6 hours a day at 100 per cent output.

That meant that – with the help of modern technology – Castle Hill could generate more than 3000 GWh per annum.

In 2011, the Times-Age reported that the electricity produced by Castle Hill could service about 370,000 households.

To contrast, the Hau Nui Wind Farm in South Wairarapa generated about 22 GWh per annum – enough to meet the needs of about 4200 homes in the Martinborough area.

“[The Castle Hill plans] have been talked about for quite some time,” Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty said.

“I remember when I was fencing out towards Makuri and Pongaroa as a uni student, they were talking about wind farms out there.

“They are ideal places for it, with consistent wind at a strong rate. It’s the sort of thing I think we should be encouraging.”

Asked how the wind farm could benefit Wairarapa directly, McAnulty said that the issue was more national in scale.

“We need to find places to put wind farms as a way of producing renewable energy.

“There are three ways that come to mind: wind, hydro, and geothermal.

“We can’t really do either of the other two, but what Wairarapa certainly isn’t short of is wind.”

However, McAnulty said that Wairarapa could benefit directly from the jobs created during construction of the wind farm.

“Whilst the installation is under way, that creates jobs, whether they be sourced locally – that would certainly be the preference – but even if not, those workers need to be resident in Wairarapa while they’re building it … Those workers will be resident here, spending money here, and that’s all good.”

McAnulty said, once complete, the wind farm could also serve to bring more people into the region.

“What we’ve seen from other wind farms – particularly the one near Woodville over the northern Tararua and Ruahine Ranges – is that they actually serve somewhat as a tourist attraction as well … Anything that is going to serve as an attraction to our region I think should be encouraged.”

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