In 1993, New Zealand’s first wind farm – a single small turbine 43.5m tall at the tip of the blade - started generating 225KW of electricity in Brooklyn, Wellington. By 2012, wind generated around 5% of the electricity consumed by kiwis – which means it powered around 225,000 homes. New Zealand is unusual internationally, as it has built all this clean, green energy without government subsidies.
New Zealand now has 18 wind farms operating around the country. These range from a single small turbine at Southbridge (100KW) to the three stages of the Tararua wind farm, which has 134 turbines with a capacity of 161MW. Southbridge alone produces enough electricity to meet the annual electricity needs of 20-25 average kiwi homes.
West Wind, near Wellington, is the largest wind farm built in one stage in New Zealand. Its 62 2.3MW turbines have a combined generating capacity of 142.6MW. Each year, West Wind generates as much electricity as 70,000 average kiwi homes would use annually – the equivalent of powering all the homes in Wellington City.
The tallest turbines in New Zealand are the 28 turbines at Te Uku Wind Farm in the Waikato. They stand 130m tall from ground to tip and can each generate 2.3MW. Te Uku generates enough electricity each year for about 30,000 average New Zealand homes.
Allied with other generation sources and an integrated electricity grid, wind is a key part of a safe, clean, and secure electricity system in New Zealand.
From 2010 to 2011, 58 wind turbines with a combined installed capacity of about 110MW were installed throughout New Zealand. NZWEA employed BERL Economics to study the economic benefits of wind farms in New Zealand in terms of employment and GDP. The BERL report identifies the economic impact in the 2011 year. Over this period, the industry directly contributed 380 FTEs to national employment and added $36 million to the national GDP. A further 140 FTEs and $52 million in GDP were generated from indirect activities.
The total benefit from the wind energy industry over the space of the 2011 year was 649 FTEs in employment and $65 million in GDP, with induced effects from consumption spending of those working in the wind energy industry.
The Mill Creek Wind Farm west of Wellington is currently under construction. Once it is finished in September 2014 it will generate around 60MW of electricity - enough to power Porirua City.
There is approximately another 2,500MW of wind generation consented. Proposed wind farms range in scale from the 8 turbine, 6.8MW Flat Hill Wind Farm to the 286 turbine, 858MW Castle Hill Wind Farm. The largest proposed turbines are at the potential Puketoi Wind Farm in the Wairarapa – each turbine would be 160m tall, with a 6MW generating capacity.