Spin­ning power for all the city

Kapi-Mana News - - ARTS - RACHEL THOMAS

Stand­ing 300-me­tres above Wellington city, there’s nowhere to hide and it’s bloody freez­ing. The mer­ci­less gusts bite into ears and faces and the Brook­lyn wind tur­bine turns at full speed.

The voosh, voosh, voosh of the 20m blades is loud and pow­er­ful.

Paul Botha, wind tech­ni­cal strat­egy man­ager for Merid­ian En­ergy, loves days like these. They’re an en­ergy jack­pot.

The Brook­lyn tur­bine is the poster child for Wellington’s tur­bine net­work - made up of close to 90 tur­bines across the re­gion, spread be­tween Makara and Mill Creek in Ohariu Val­ley.

The wind flows over the blades, which causes them to turn, lit­er­ally spin­ning power to the re­gion’s homes.

‘‘At about 15km an hour, the ro­tor will start turn­ing, and it can in­crease in ro­ta­tional speed up un­til about 50-60kmh,’’ he said.

‘‘Power from our wind tur­bines is con­nected to the main net­work and that is con­nected to our houses.‘‘

If Wellington has a day that’s light on power, the en­ergy will be ex­ported else­where, Botha said.

On very calm days, the tur­bine will stop, and some­times do some self-groom­ing, Botha said.

‘‘The elec­tric­ity comes from power ca­bles and as the face fol­lows the wind it some­times gen­er­ates a twist in those ca­bles. The tur­bine will mon­i­tor the num­ber of twists.’’

On a calm day, the tur­bines can be seen un­wind­ing them­selves in the op­po­site di­rec­tion.

They’re de­signed to last for about 20 years, Botha said. ’’Once they get be­yond that they ei­ther need a ma­jor re­fur­bish­ment or re­place­ment of com­po­nents.’’

The for­mer Brook­lyn tur­bine stood for 22 years, but still had some juice left. It was sold to South Is­land com­pany En­ergy3 and is liv­ing out the rest of its days on a smaller com­mer­cial wind farm.

The new tur­bine’s di­am­e­ter is 44m, so each of the three blade stretch out about 20m. It stands at 67m high, which means civil avi­a­tion laws re­quire it to have a red flash­ing light on at night.

Brook­lyn is not the largest of the lot – Makara’s are 82m in di­am­e­ter – but the blades had to be able to squeeze around the sharp nar­row bends on the wind­ing road up to the top, Botha said.

The Brook­lyn wind tur­bine alone pumps out enough wind­spun en­ergy to power 480 homes each year. The whole net­work could power 100,000 houses for a year.

Paul Botha loves Wel­ing­ton’s windy days - they are an en­ergy ‘‘jack­pot’’.

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