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Hydropower project gets consents after successful court appeal

BULLER, New Zealand 5/7/12 (PennWell) -- State-owned mining company Solid Energy has received resource consents for a hydroelectric generating scheme that will use water from its Stockton Mine in Buller, New Zealand.

The scheme would produce 195 GWh of electricity annually, a release says, which would power about 24,000 homes and allow for the exportation of energy.

Solid Energy's application was initially turned down by the Buller District and West Coast Regional Councils in mid-2010, but the company's appeal to the region's environmental court was approved essentially as proposed.

"The environmental impact of this hydro scheme is extremely low in comparison to other generation options," says Solid Energy Chief Operating Officer Barry Bragg. "It doesn't involve damming large rivers, it sits alongside existing mine infrastructure and would actually support the mine's program by further improving the quality of water leaving the site."

Solid Energy's scheme is actually the second of two hydroelectric plans that would use the Stockton water. The first -- a plan by Hydro Developments Ltd. -- received consents in 2010 for a scheme harnessing the same water catchments as those proposed for the Solid Energy scheme. However, the companies reached a usage agreement in October 2010 that will prevent conflict.

"There are now two consented hydro schemes which could be built, increasing the prospect of the Coast having a significant source of locally generated electricity," Bragg says. "Being closer to the point of generation means fewer transmission losses, which should result in lower prices for consumers."

The company did not specify a timeline for construction of the project.

Also in New Zealand, power company Contact Energy recently announced it will not pursue any options for hydroelectric development on the country's Clutha River, following a three-year study.


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