Alternative Power Sources: Wind Farms in New Zealand

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A markerSaddle Road, Woodville, New Zealand -
Saddle Rd, Woodville 4999, New Zealand
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The Te Apiti wind farm is accessed from Saddle Road.

B markerPalmerston North -
Palmerston North, New Zealand
[get directions]

New Zealand with its clean, green image is always on the look out for alternative sources of power generation. In an attempt to find energy sources other than from fossil fuels New Zealand has started operating wind farms. There are seventeen wind farms either operating or under construction all over the country. These wind farms currently supply over four percent of the annual electricity generation which equals to the annual usage of 180,000 homes.

We had an opportunity to visit the Te Apiti wind farm in New Zealand when we went on a one day excursion on a steam train to Woodville recently. We were able to see the wind turbines up close and hear the whoosh, whoosh of the blades as they turned in the wind. There were sheep grazing on the foot of the wind turbines on rolling hills.

What is Wind Farming?

A wind farm consists of a group of wind turbines all installed in a large area of land where the wind velocity is suitable to enable generation of electricity. The wind turbines can be installed on the coast as well, for example the Lillgrund Wind Farm which is located about 10 km off the coast of Sweden. There are two types of wind farms:

  • On shore – on land where it can be used for other agricultural purposes.
  • Off Shore – close to the coast in the shallow waters of the sea.

The world's first wind farm was installed in New Hampshire, USA as early as 1980 and had twenty wind turbines generating 30KW each. Since then there have been many wind farms established in many countries such as Australia, Canada, China, European Union, South Africa, India and New Zealand. India has the fifth largest installed wind power capacity in the world today with a capacity of 16078MW that can be generated. The world's largest offshore wind farms are found in United Kingdom and Denmark.

Te Apiti Wind Farm, near Palmerston North, New Zealand.
Te Apiti Wind Farm, near Palmerston North, New Zealand. | Source
Manawatu Gorge which acts like a funnel for the wind that blows at great speeds to turn the wind turbines.
Manawatu Gorge which acts like a funnel for the wind that blows at great speeds to turn the wind turbines. | Source

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Te Apiti Wind Farm, near Palmerston North

The wind farm which was established in Te Apiti was the first one to supply electricity to the national grid. It has the capacity to generate 90MW from 55 wind turbines to meet the needs of approximately 45,000 average homes. It was started in 2003 and began generating electricity by 2004. It is operated by Meridian Energy.

The 55 wind turbines at Te Apiti each have a tower that is 70 meters high with 3 blades each 35 meters in length. They have maximum speed of 17 revolutions per minute. They are electronically controlled and in very high winds automatically shut down to protect them from getting damaged.

The Te Apiti wind farm, being located north of the Manawatu Gorge, has been installed on 1,150 hectares of farmland owned by several landowners. The wind resource near the gorge is exceptional compared to international standards because it acts as a funnel creating high wind speeds.

The public can visit it the viewing area underneath one of the turbines which is open from 8.30am to 5.00pm daily. It can be accessed from Saddle Road and is a pleasant drive up the rolling hills to the farm. The wind turbines are visible from the Manawatu Gorge while on the State Highway 3 or when travelling by train.

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