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Contact Energy Wins New Zealand Wind Farm Approval

Contact Energy Ltd., New Zealand’s biggest publicly traded energy company, said it won approval to build a NZ$500 million ($371 million) wind farm on the North Island.

The Environment Court of New Zealand in Wellington overturned today the April 2009 rejection of the Waitahora wind development by three commissioners of the Tararua District and Horizons Regional Council.

“There will inevitably be some adverse and visual amenity effects,” C.J. Thompson, principal environment judge, said in the 41-page ruling, adding the impact was acceptable. “This is after all a relatively remote rural landscape with a relatively sparse population density.”

The proposed wind farm, southeast of Dannevirke in Southern Hawke’s Bay, will generate about 156 megawatts, enough electricity to power as many as 70,000 average homes, Contact spokeswoman Janet Carson said. The proposal was scaled back from 65 turbines to either 58 125-meter turbines or 52 150-meter-high ones, following the commissioners’ rejection and complaints from residents, she said. The cost remains unchanged, she said.

The proposed 150-meter turbines would be the biggest in New Zealand, Carson said in a phone interview.

Contact, based in Wellington, hasn’t yet determined when construction on the wind farm will begin, Carson said.

“Renewable energy developments will play a major role in the company’s future growth,” David Baldwin, Contact’s managing director, said in a statement.

Contact shares rose 0.8 percent to NZ$5.98 at the 4 p.m. close of trading on the New Zealand Stock Exchange. The shares have risen 1.4 percent this year.

The case is Between Contact Energy Ltd and the Manawatu-Wanganui Regional Council. ENV-2009-WLG-000087. Environment Court of New Zealand (Wellington).

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