Meridian Energy' />

The country's second-biggest wind farm is to be built in the central North Island - delivering electricity to up to 50,000 homes.

Meridian Energy has this week been granted permission by the Environment Court to go ahead with plans to develop the Central Wind project between Taihape and Waiouru.

With a total of 52 turbines - with an estimated combined generating capacity of 120-130 megawatts - across five rural properties in the area, it will be the second-largest wind farm in the country.

The largest is the recently completed West Wind project on Terawhiti Station and Makara Farm, just west of Wellington, which has 62 turbines and can generate power to up to 70,000 homes.

Meridian Energy spokesman Alan Seay said the project could be completed within as little as two years, but could easily start generating electricity to homes in about a year.

"That's the advantage of a wind farm. It's easy and fast," he said.

"It's a good site and we're looking forward to starting."

The project has, however, been controversial with many people living in the vicinity - particularly those in the tourism and outdoors industry - saying the turbines will ruin the landscape and reduce the number of visitors.

But the Environment Court, in its decision, said the wind farm was unlikely to have any significant adverse effects on the area's landscapes.

It was also unlikely to diminish any tourism or recreational opportunities now offered in the area.

Meridian Energy chief executive Tim Lusk said that with the consistently strong winds in the area, it was expected that, when complete, the turbines would generate power for at least 90 per cent of the time.

The site was therefore the perfect place to build a wind farm, Mr Lusk said.

"Central Wind will make a significant contribution to security of electricity supply in the North Island using a clean, renewable resource."

* Project West Wind: Located on Terawhiti Station and Makara Farm, west of Wellington, 62 turbines.
* Tararua Wind Farm: In the Tararua Ranges, 48 turbines.
* Te Apiti wind farm: North of the Manawatu Gorge, 55 turbines.
* White Hill wind farm: Southeast of Mossburn in Southland, 29 turbines.