Hydropower, Project Development, Wind Power

Wind Farm Planned for New Zealand’s Windy Capital

New Zealand’s Meridian Energy announced it is seeking resource consent to develop a wind farm west of Wellington. Located close to the capitol, one of the country’s windiest cities, the proposed wind farm has the potential to be the best performing wind farm in the world.

Called Project West Wind, the wind farm is expected to generate enough electricity to power up to 110,000 average homes, equivalent to every home in Wellington City, Lower Hutt and Porirua. Project West Wind is expected to have up to 70 turbines with a total capacity of approximately 210 MW, significantly larger than Meridian Energy’s 92 MW Te Apiti wind farm north of the Manawatu Gorge. Its generation will be supplied into Transpower’s national grid and available for use in the Wellington area, assisting local security of supply. Project West Wind will be located across 55 square kilometers on Meridian Energy’s Quartz Hill property and its neighbor to the south, Terawhiti Station. Meridian Energy Chief Executive Keith Turner says the Project West Wind site has been identified as one of the best in the world for wind farm development. “Our Project West Wind proposal makes great use of Wellington’s world-class wind resource,” Turner said. “The site has strong, consistent wind conditions because of the funneling effect of Cook Strait, making it ideal for wind power generation. “This site is so outstanding, no subsidies are required to develop and operate Project West Wind.” Turner said Project West Wind would be generating electricity over 90 percent of the time and operating at full capacity approximately 47 percent of the time – more than double the international average of 23 percent. Meridian Energy’s West Wind project would provide 10 percent of the national renewable energy target if resource consent is granted said Heather Staley, Chief Executive of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA). “Where better to have a wind farm than in New Zealand’s windy city,” said Staley. “Demand for electricity is forecast to rise, and the more we can meet this demand from renewable energy sources, the closer we are to a sustainable energy future.” Generation would also be close to a highly populated residential area, which would reduce transmission losses. New Zealanders appear to approve quite overwhelmingly of wind power, with a recent UMR survey showing that 82 percent of New Zealanders approved of wind energy, more than any other source of generation. Meridian Energy’s decision to consult with the public about Project West Wind comes after extensive research into the possible impacts of the wind farm. Meridian Energy’s decision to consult with the public about Project West Wind comes after extensive research into the possible impacts of the wind farm. “Finalizing wind turbine placement has been a rigorous process,” Meridian’s Turner said. “We have conducted several Assessment of Environmental Effects reports, looking at everything from local ecology, geology and archaeology to construction requirements, noise and visual effect. All of these assessments have influenced the placement of wind turbines.” Meridian Energy identified 107 technically and economically feasible wind turbine sites, and removed 37 of these from their proposal. They were taken out to ensure Project West Wind will have minimal impact on local people and local areas of historical or ecological significance. No wind turbines will be visible from Makara Beach, and even for homes where turbines can be seen, the turbines will be at least 750 meters away. “Meridian Energy is committed to renewable energy and will generate electricity using only renewable resources,” Turner said. “Currently, wind-farms and hydro power stations are the only proven, environmentally responsible and economically viable means of generating renewable energy on a large scale. They also work extremely well together. When the wind blows we can preserve our hydro storage, and when the wind stops we can quickly bring our hydro plant into play.”