The largest wind turbines ever erected in New Zealand are beginning to appear in the southern Taranaki landscape between Waverley and Patea.
The Waipipi wind farm covers 700 hectares of coastal land. Approaching from the north, the towering wind turbines of the Waipipi development of the Tilt Renewables first appear before reaching Patea and are clearly visible from State Highway 3.
The project is unusual for a New Zealand wind farm, as it is being built on flat coastal land.
Project manager Stewart Reid explained that the site, in a former iron sand mine, has meant paying special attention to the foundations of the towers.
“We are installing rammed aggregate piles … basically the rammed aggregate piles densify the area below the foundation to ensure there is no liquefaction in the event of an earthquake.
“So they are adding aggregates to the soil and there are around 600 to 700 piles per turbine.”
And yes, in the language of wind turbines, size does matter.
“We are installing 31 Siemens Gamesa wind turbines. They are 160m high with a 130m diameter rotor. They are 4.3 megawatt wind turbines and are the largest wind turbines ever installed in New Zealand.
“The advantage of a larger machine is that it needs less, so we agree with 48 wind turbines here, but we only need to install 31 for the plant of the same size.”
Once the base is finished, it still takes several days to install a turbine, which, ironically, requires perfectly still conditions.
“We brought in a crane from Australia that is just over 115m tall. The tower is raised by six or seven hoists. You have three tower sections to lift and the cell, a generator and then the rotor. All three blades are assembled on the ground and stand up in one piece, and fit in front of the generator. “
Stewart said Waipipi’s constant 8-meter-per-second winds, access to the national grid, North Island’s electricity markets and its relative isolation made it ideal for a wind farm.
About 10 km of underground cable has been laid in Waipipi to bring the power from the wind turbines to an on-site substation before it is transferred to the Waverley substation, and to the national grid, through a series of single-pole towers.
One person who doesn’t complain about development is South Taranaki Mayor Phil Nixon.
“We focus on renewable energy and therefore these 31 wind turbines will be very good for renewable energy and a $ 277 million expense, that is, that’s huge in our district and there is a lot of employment. So yeah, it’s something very positive for us. “
The 133-megawatt wind farm, enough to supply some 65,000 homes, employs around 100 people during construction and will have a permanent staff of about six.
It is expected to start generating electricity later this year and will connect to the national grid in early 2021.