On coastal South Taranaki farmland, a New Zealand company is making a long-term commitment to New Zealand’s new energy future.
Tilt Renewables (NZX: TLT), a developer, owner and manager of renewable energy generation assets in Australia and New Zealand, is building the 133-megawatt (MW) Waipipi Wind Farm.
Placed along 980 hectares of coastal land between Waverley and Pātea, the wind farm will comprise 31 Siemens Gamesa turbines, each with a capacity of 4.3 MW and a 130m rotor diameter – the largest ever installed in New Zealand.
Once complete and operational in February 2021, the wind farm will generate an annual average of 455 gigawatt hours of green electricity – enough to power about 65,000 homes and save the emission of 250,000 tonnes of carbon.
With a 30-year operating design life and at a cost of $277 million, the wind farm is a significant investment in the region’s future, and is among the first physical signs that Taranaki is leading New Zealand’s shift to a low-emissions economy.
“There’s been a real lull in wind farm development in the past six or seven years, but the market has changed in New Zealand now,” explains Tilt Renewables project manager Jim Pearson.
“There’s more demand and desire for renewable energy and it’s a positive statement to move into renewables.
“Wind farm sites are chosen first and foremost on wind resource and the second important thing is the transmission connection – how close you are to connecting into either a local network or national grid. Both are ideal here.”
Jim says the desire by Taranaki landowners, iwi, and local and regional councils to engage constructively during the consenting phase had impressed Tilt Renewables.
“We have worked very closely with the stakeholders and they have been very supportive and pragmatic to get it under way. As we are a member of the community for the next 25–50 years, we take a long-term view on relationships and want to build that as best we can.”
The depth of experience in Taranaki across engineering, civil works, and electricity will play a significant role in the 18-month project.
“Taranaki has a good skills base, good technical support services and infrastructure to support the operating phase and life of the wind farm. We are very focused on using local contractors as much as possible, which supports the community and lowers our own cost base,” Jim says.
In fact, the project will be a contributing factor in the regions swift economic recovery from the impacts of COVID-19, with Tilt Renewable already employing 80 onsite workers, with another 80 to be onsite when the turbines are erected, as well as an emphasis on utilising local contractors.
“This will be huge for getting the economy moving post-COVID-19,” Jim says.
“One of the advantages of South Taranaki is it’s a rural district and there is an appreciation of working the land. Building something like a wind farm is a positive development and you are using a natural resource to provide a local and national benefit.”
During construction, it’s expected the project will inject $70 million of expenditure into the Taranaki economy and employ 80–100 people. Once completed, up to 10 people will be directly and indirectly employed for the wind farm’s operation.