Blow­ing in the wind

Lat­est Merid­ian project set to be one of the world’s most pro­duc­tive, and will in­crease New Zealand’s wind power ca­pac­ity by 10%.

Element - - Clean Technology -

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.

Neal Bar­clay, Merid­ian gen­eral man­ager mar­kets and pro­duc­tion, says the project is Merid­ian’s 10th 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,” says Neal.

“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.”

Neal Bar­clay, Merid­ian gen­eral man­ager mar­kets and pro­duc­tion

The gi­ant tur­bines be­ing trans­ported to the Mill Creek Wind Farm.

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