Turbines fit well with farming routines

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Wind power contributes 5 per cent of New Zealand's energy portfolio.
Wind power contributes 5 per cent of New Zealand's energy portfolio.

From a renewable electricity perspective, New Zealand's wind resource is globally admired and has proved to be cost-effective.

Wind power contributes 5 per cent of New Zealand's energy portfolio -- enough to power 3000 homes a year.

The Global Wind Energy Council says New Zealand's wind resource is "spectacular" and one of the best in the world.

Turbines installed in the Manawatu area in 2007 recently achieved the record for producing the most electricity by any wind turbine in the world, testimony to New Zealand's excellent wind regime.

Bayleys national rural sales manager Simon Anderson says that 19 wind farms are operating or being built.

Most existing wind generation is in the Waikato, Manawatu, Wellington and Southland.

Identified growth areas include Northland, South Taranaki, Hawke's Bay, Canterbury and Otago.

Wind farms were often on less productive areas so they don't compromise otherwise useful farming land.

There is little impact on livestock, Anderson says.

Sheep, cows and horses are not disturbed and graze right up to the base of the towers.

"Landowners will sign an agreement to allow the wind farm developer access to the property for wind testing purposes and later enter into a formal agreement to host a wind farm on their property in return for payments over the life of the development," Anderson says.

Developer's rights need to be transferable to any future owner of the property.

Anderson says that calculating the market value of a wind farm's return to the farmer requires professional valuation.

"Anecdotally, some owners of rural property with wind farm infrastructure on it have had inflated ideas of what their property may now be worth given the capital investment made by the energy company," Anderson says.

Meridian Energy investigations manager Graeme Mills says:

"A wind farm typically takes up 1 to 2 per cent of the land it is built on and has virtually no effect on the farming productivity of the land underneath and around them.

"Access to the land is often greatly improved with roading infrastructure for the wind farm enhancing the landowners' property.

"Our most recent wind farm, Mill Creek, near Wellington, involved constructing 19km of new roading and the land owners are now able to take stock trucks to the heart of their properties, making stock management much easier."

The main challenges for rural landowners are during the construction phase when civil works are being carried out.

"But this is a short-term issue and the landowner is usually compensated for any losses during that time.

"Once the wind farm is constructed there will always be maintenance activities and staff on the land, so the parties have to compromise and work with each other for the lifetime of the asset," Mills says.

Anderson says that from a resale perspective, having a wind farm on a rural property could be polarising.

Typically, a turbine tower is 67m. Each has three 40m blades weighing 10 tonnes. The power-generating turbine weighs 130 tonnes.

"Our Bayleys rural salespeople in the field say some prospective purchasers are put off by the concept of an existing contractual arrangement over part of their land, while others are equally open to the idea of an alternative income stream from the property."

Having to deal with an operational wind farm on a day-to-day basis might not be for everyone, but in reality there is little disruption was minimal.

Mills says he knows of only one Meridian wind farm unit being sold after being converted into a power station.

"In that case the vendor left some of the benefit from the turbine payments with the new owner so there is certainly the potential for purchasers to view these sites as an investment opportunity," Mills says.

Wind Energy Association chief executive Eric Pyle says that with consented sites ready to go on rural farm land when needed, and the cost of development competitive with all other options, wind was a realistic and renewable energy source for the future.

"It is true that electricity can only be generated when the wind is blowing, but it has been proved from operational experience to date that wind is actually more reliable then hydro' on a seasonal and annual basis at our good sites."

Pyle says project developers are always looking for locations for new wind farms. Once identified and leasing terms negotiated with land owners, projects could be built quickly.

Despite a wind farm being a major infrastructure project, once established it fitted very well with normal farming operations.

"In terms of utility-scale generation, it's wind's time," Pyle says.

"Large-scale hydro is largely off the agenda now in New Zealand -- and has been for the past 30 years because people value our remaining rivers. Wind is crucial to New Zealand's energy future."

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