Monday, 25 June 2012

New wind farms raise New Zealand's renewable energy generation
16 Jun 2012

Wind power is on course to supply 20% on New Zealand's electricity by 2030, compared with just 5% now, industry experts said Friday on the announcements of two major new wind power projects. State-owned power company Meridian Energy announced it would start construction on a 26 turbine, 60 MW wind farm at Mill Creek, north of Wellington, in the next two months, to be completed in mid 2014. "At an estimated 169 million NZ dollars (132.36 million U.S, dollars) to construct and with an annual average operating cost of 3.3 million NZ dollars, Mill Creek is a very strong commercial proposition", Meridian Energy chief executive Mark Binns said in a statement.

Meridian Energy's wind development team had taken advantage of a number of external factors, including the strong New Zealand dollar, an easing of steel prices and highly competitive turbine technology and construction industries, he said. The Mill Creek wind farm would be situated near existing Meridian Energy wind farm West Wind. "The project will extend the contribution of renewable energy from the city to the wider Wellington region. Between West Wind and Mill Creek we will produce enough energy to power the equivalent of 100,000 average New Zealand homes".

Mill Creek would produce on average 235 MW hours of power per year, enough electricity to power the equivalent of 30,000 average New Zealand homes. Friday, which was Global Wind Day, also marked the opening of the country's newest wind farm, the 7.65 MW Mount Stuart wind farm in the South Island's Clutha district. New Zealand Wind Energy Association chief executive Eric Pyle said the two projects reinforced wind power as a cost effective form of generation and an attractive investment.

"From the point of view of an investor, the major advantages of wind farms are that they can be built quickly and sized to fit both the developer's strategy and market requirements", Pyle said in a statement. Wind energy had grown over 25% a year over the last few years to supply about 5% of New Zealand's electricity, and was likely to be supplying 20% by 2030, said Pyle.

Energy and Resources Minister Phil Heatley said the role of wind power for electricity generation was steadily increasing. "Unlike many countries, New Zealand's wind power does not require subsidies. It is one of the cheapest sources of generation for New Zealand to develop", Heatley said in a statement. "Renewables already play a significant role in our energy mix with 77% of New Zealand's electricity coming from renewable sources last year. The government has a target of 90% by 2025". About 2,400 MWs of other wind projects were already approved, Heatley said.