Meridian Energy has turned the first sod on Mill Creek, its 26-turbine wind farm in the Ohariu Valley north west of Wellington City.
Work on the wind farm commenced last month on an access road through Spicer Forest for wind farm traffic. Construction of the wind farm is expected to take 30 months.
Today Energy and Resources Minister Phil Heatley and Meridian Chairman Chris Moller turned the first sod with representatives from the Port Nicholson Block Trust and Ngati Toa, who represent local iwi.
Meridian Chief Executive Mark Binns says the ceremony was also a chance to celebrate the start of construction with the landowners, whose properties the 18km2 wind farm would be located on.
“It’s great to acknowledge their support and important to remember they were the ones who came up with the idea of building a wind farm on their properties over 10 years ago. They then chose Meridian to build and operate it.
Landowner Gavin Bruce says a group of four landowners and a long time Ohariu Valley resident formed a corporation called Wind Corp Limited in 2001 to develop their idea of farming wind in the area.
“We identified wind farming as a way of maintaining the viability of our Ohariu Valley farms. We sought tenders to develop the wind farm and chose Meridian because of its reputation for doing this well.”
Mark Binns says the time is right to build Mill Creek, which is estimated to cost $169 million to construct, with an annual average operating cost of $3.3 million, “We have a strong pipeline of development options in New Zealand. Mill Creek will make a valuable contribution to our renewable generation portfolio and is another example of renewable energy meeting the country’s future energy needs.”
The Mill Creek site benefits from a world class wind resource, harnessing the ‘roaring 40s’ wind from the Cook Strait. The funneling effect of Cook Strait means the site has strong and consistent wind speeds, making it an ideal place for a wind farm.
Meridian applied for resource consents in 2009, which were granted by the Wellington and Porirua city councils and Wellington Regional Council in 2010. The consents were appealed to the Environment Court in 2011 and gained approval in August 2011.
Siemens is supplying the 2.3MW turbines, which will produce on average 235 GWh of power per annum, that’s enough electricity to power the equivalent of 30,000 average New Zealand homes each year. Full power at Mill Creek is expected in mid-2014.
News release from NZ Wind Energy Association
The New Zealand Wind Energy Association today congratulates Meridian Energy on turning the first sod at the Mill Creek wind farm, in the Ohariu Valley near Wellington.
“Construction of Mill Creek is an important step towards New Zealand’s renewable energy future,” says NZWEA chief executive Eric Pyle. “Wind will be a key part of a safe and secure electricity system, generating at least 20% of New Zealand’s electricity by 2030, up from 5% of generation today.
“Projects such as Mill Creek will provide cost-competitive generation as older thermal plants are phased out of the electricity market,” notes Mr Pyle.
“The technology for harnessing wind has advanced significantly in recent times, with capacity factors increasing alongside efficiency and reliability. This all combines with our tremendous wind resource to make wind energy one of the lowest cost options for new generation in New Zealand.”
Once Mill Creek is complete, New Zealand’s installed wind capacity will increase from 623MW to 683MW.