Sam Judd
Comment on the environment from nzherald.co.nz columnist Sam Judd

Sam Judd: Pimp my wind turbine

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Photo / Nition1 at English Wikipedia
Photo / Nition1 at English Wikipedia

As a child, I used to love mountain biking up and down the hills of Wellington.

One of my favourite places was where the wind turbine stood proudly on the hill up in Brooklyn. I used to marvel at the structure.

To steal a line from The Castle, "It reminded me of man's ability to make electricity," but through innovation, not coal.

I was proud of it and it is fair to say that being able to see it, made me learn about the issue much earlier than if it had not been there.

Now, after 22 years of producing clean electricity, New Zealand's first wind turbine is getting an upgrade today by owners Meridian Energy. The old one produced enough power for 110 homes on average, while the upgraded model will provide for about 490 homes.

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At a cost of $2.9 million, this seems well worth it for us to invest in. Considering that an average power bill in Wellington is about $2,000 per year, the payback time on a turbine like this could make a great case for more of them to be installed.

The old machine is not, thankfully, going to the scrap heap.

It has been sold to Energy 3, to be refurbished and installed in a location where there is no public access, meaning that it can safely continue to generate renewable electricity for years to come.

Guy Waipara, Meridian Energy's general manager of external relations, says the turbine became a landmark: "The original turbine was a city icon, part of the cityscape and valued by the local community and wider Wellington region."

I take my hat off to the people of Wellington for deciding they wanted to keep this pioneering display of renewable energy: A local poll showed that 85 per cent of Wellingtonians wanted to keep it.

I would also hope that the naysayers that oppose wind farms - whom it seems would rather look at farmland that is usually covered in chemicals that hurt the environment than energy solutions that help it, could see the benefits of these schemes.

I have written about Nimbyism before and this can be your classic example - where people want renewable energy but don't want it to have to be near their house.

So should we start to pull together more wind turbine schemes and help to get to a space of 100 per cent renewable energy? Based on the Wellington example, it seems like a good idea to me.

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