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.
For more information on the development of the wind industry in NZ a case study report was completed for APEC in September 2016. Click to access the case study report.
Economic Benefit Study
In 2012 BERL undertook a study on the economic benefits of wind farms in New Zealand. In 2010-11 the Study identified that the direct and indirect activities of the wind industry contributed 649 FTE’s to national employment and added $65m to GDP.
The BERL report also forecast the economic benefits of the wind industry increasing in capacity to 3,500 MW by 2030. In this scenario the wind industry would have a direct contribution of 764 FTE’s and an GDP contribution of $81m. Including the indirect benefits, from the spending of workers and their families, the total economic benefit would be 1,430 FTE’s and $156m to GDP.
While it is unlikely the wind industry will increase to 3,500 MW of installed capacity by 2030 the BERL Report does highlight the benefit of achieving greater scale.
Infometrics also undertook a study in 2011 to review the potential contribution of wind generation if 20% of electricity generation was from wind in 2030.
The Infometrics Report compared 4 scenarios, which depending on carbon and gas price assumptions, the economic benefits ranged from $60 to $390 per person per year. The benefits mainly stem from substituting costly fuels for free renewable resources and the savings from not having to buy carbon credits.
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.