Plans for a high-tech wind farm that will boost total wind generation capacity by almost 70 per cent were unveiled yesterday by TrustPower.
The 120MW wind farm will cost about $220 million to build in the Tararua Ranges near Palmerston North. It will generate enough power for 52,000 homes.
By using the latest computerised equipment, TrustPower will need to install just 40 turbines.
Chief executive Keith Tempest said that five years ago generating the same amount of power by wind would have taken 160 turbines.
The new turbines were individually controlled by micro-computers. They were able to constantly readjust the angle of their blades to maximise efficiency as the wind changed direction and strength.
The rapidly improving technology combined with the rising cost of producing electricity using gas meant that wind farms were becoming increasingly economically viable.
Tempest said it was likely that as the technology continued to improve, turbines on existing sites would be replaced with more efficient models.
The company already had a sizeable wind farm at Tararua generating about 68MW of power. It was built in 1999 but was doubled in size this year.
Tempest said the community was now overwhelmingly supportive of the wind farm. He was optimistic that there would be few problems gaining resource consent and that the new plant could be operational by 2006.
"We have lodged this consent application somewhat later than we had hoped," he said. "But that reflects our efforts to consult with a wide range of local stakeholders."
Having lived near a wind farm for some time, the locals did not have the same "fear issues" that had blocked development in other parts of the country.
In fact, the turbines had proved popular with tourists and other visitors.
He said the construction of the wind farm would inject about $70 million into the region's economy.