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 2016, wind generated around 6% of the electricity consumed by kiwis – which is about the same amount of electricity as 300,000 homes use in a year. New Zealand is unusual internationally, as it has built all this clean, green energy without government subsidies.
New Zealand now has 19 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.
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 most of 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.
Economic Benefit Study
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.
Since the Report was completed the combined capacity of wind farms has increased to 690MW bringing further economic benefits.
Most recent Wind Farms
The Mill Creek Wind Farm west of Wellington is the latest large wind farm to be constructed. It was completed in 2014 and generates around 60MW of electricity - enough to power Porirua City. The smaller 8 turbine, 6.8MW Flat Hill Wind Farm was completed in 2015 and is the most recent wind farm constructed.
Wind farm development since 2015 has been impacted by a number of factors including limited electricity demand growth and an oversupply position.
The outlook is improving as sector security margins have reduced, following thermal plant closures, increasing confidence in future demand growth and the need to move to renewables to reduce carbon emissions to meet climate change targets.
The latest view on the outlook for wind energy is contained in the Association’s year in review section.
There is approximately another 2,500MW of wind generation consented which range from smaller sites 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.