Growing wind power good for economy

“Following a record year in 2009, New Zealand’s wind energy industry is proving its worth to New Zealand’s economy,” says New Zealand Wind Energy Association Chief Executive Fraser Clark, in the lead up to the 2010 New Zealand Wind Energy Conference, being held in Palmerston North this week.

“2009 saw many new wind energy records, including a new quarterly record with wind turbines providing 4.9% of total generation (511 gigawatt-hours) in the December quarter,” says Mr Clark. “The industry is well on track for providing 20% of New Zealand’s electricity, and this growth will bring further economic benefits and opportunities.”

During 2009 a record 171 megawatts of capacity was installed at four wind farms, and annual generation reached 1456 gigawatt-hours (3.5% of generation). Wind farms are now operating or under construction in the Waikato, the Manawatu, Wellington, Marlborough, Central Otago and Southland.

“These wind farms make use of a free and reliable energy source – the wind – to generate competitive, low emission electricity,” notes Mr Clark.

“The price and reliability of our electricity supply remains a concern for New Zealanders. New Zealand’s wind energy industry plays an important role in ensuring New Zealanders have access to reliable and affordable electricity as our traditional energy sources – water and gas – become constrained.”

At the same time, the wind farm industry provides opportunities for businesses and jobs. The range of companies involved with the conference demonstrates the wealth of business opportunities available in wind energy. Over 35 companies are exhibiting at the conference – including New Zealand’s wind turbines suppliers, construction and engineering companies, consultancies and equipment suppliers of all kinds – from cables and electrical components to health and safety. The conference is an excellent opportunity for these companies and others in the industry to connect with and learn from each other.

Conference speaker Deion Campbell, Manager – Major Projects at TrustPower, will discuss the economic benefits wind energy brings to local economies – and the opportunities this creates for local businesses and jobs – using the development and operation of Stage 3 of Tararua Wind Farm, in the Manawatu, as a case study.

“Ten years ago, Vestas Wind Systems employed 2 people in Palmerston North, it now employs 38,” says Mr Cambpell. “I estimate that each year the wind industry spends about $11 million with local businesses. Last year Vestas spent $2.4 million with 109 local companies in relation to Tararua Stage 3 alone.”

In the past year the wind energy industry has taken some important steps to ensure its growth continues in a sustainable fashion. The new Wind Farm Noise Standard will help to ensure the noise effects of wind farms are well managed. At the conference NZWEA will launch its Wind Farm Development Guidelines project, which set out to identify good practice across all aspects of wind farm development from site assessment to operation.

“This project will enable councils and communities to be confident that wind farms are being developed in line with good practice,” concludes