New wind farm raise New Zealand’s renewable energy generation

State-owned power company Meridian Energy announced it would start construction on a 26-turbine, 60-megawatt 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 chief executive Mark Binns said in a statement.

Meridian’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 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 kilowatt 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-megawatt 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 energy 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 percent a year over the last few years to supply about 5 percent of New Zealand’s electricity, and was likely to be supplying 20 percent by 2030, said Pyle.

Energy and Resources Minister Phil Heatley said the role of wind energy for electricity generation was steadily increasing.

"Unlike many countries, New Zealand’s wind energy 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 percent of New Zealand’s electricity coming from renewable sources last year. The government has a target of 90 percent by 2025." About 2,400 megawatts of other wind projects were already approved, Heatley said.

Wind power in New Zealand

1997: 4 MW
1998: 24 MW (+500 %)
1999: 35 MW (+45.9 %)
2000: 35 MW (- %)
2001: 35 MW (- %)
2002: 35 MW (- %)
2003: 36 MW (+2.9 %)
2004: 168 MW (+366.7 %)
2005: 168 MW (- %)
2006: 171 MW (+1.8 %)
2007: 322 MW (+88.4 %)
2008: 325 MW (+1 %)
2009: 497 MW (+53 %)
2010: 530 MW (+6.7 %)
2011: 622 MW (+17.4 %)

By José Santamarta,