ELEMENT PROMOTION: Meridian Energy's latest wind farm Mill Creek, near Wellington, will increase New Zealand wind generation by 10% while helping achieve NZ's target of 90% renewable electricity generation by 2025.
Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) figures show an impressive 79% of electricity in New Zealand was generated from renewable sources (wind and hydro power) in the three months to March 2014.
Mill Creek, a 26-turbine wind farm in Ohariu Valley, is the country's newest renewable energy project, and because New Zealand's demand for electricity is currently flat, will probably be the last wind farm to be built for some time.
Work on the project began in late 2012. The roading for Mill Creek was the largest civil works project in New Zealand this year, with total of 18km of road laid on the site. Up to 63 cement truckloads of concrete went into the 20-metres-wide, two-metres-deep turbine foundations. The turbine blades are 40 metres long (10 metres longer than the wing of a Boeing 777).
The wind farm is the brainchild of four Ohariu Valley farmers who came up with the idea of a wind farm as an innovative and sustainable way to support the viability of their beef and sheep farms, while preserving the lifestyle and rural character of the area.
They ran a tender process to build and operate the wind farm and chose Meridian, which owns and operates four wind farms in NZ and two in Australia, because of its expertise in building wind farms in New Zealand, Australia and Antarctica.
Meridian general manager markets and production Neal Barclay says the project is Meridian's tenth wind farm that it has developed or purchased.
"We expect it to be one of the most productive in the world.
"Wind patterns at Mill Creek mean that we expect we will get twice the energy out of the turbines compared to that of the average global wind farm," he says.
The project reached first power in May and full power (when all the turbines are generating) is expected by late September. The turbines generate electricity in wind speeds of between 14km and 90km per hour, and together will generate 59.8MW of electricity (2.3MW each), enough to power around 30,000 New Zealand homes.
"Mill Creek also further diversifies Meridian's hydro and wind portfolio.
"Having wind farms also means if it's blowing in the North Island we can use wind and less South Island water from our lakes to generate electricity when we need it most.
"Mill Creek also further illustrates Meridian's commitment to renewable generation and reinforces our view that wind energy is the leading technology in New Zealand's renewable future.
"And it's not only New Zealand's future. Last year the equivalent of 600 Mill Creek wind projects were built around the world - enough to power all of NZ's electricity needs one and a half times over."
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