Once the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, one of New Zealand’s first wind farms on the Tararua Range is going strong after two decades with turbines expected to wear out within 20 years.
The first stage of the 134-turbine Tararua Wind Farm started commercial production on Christmas Eve, 1999, an anniversary marked by owners Tilt Renewables on site on Thursday.
Chief executive Deion Campbell said it was a credit to the maintenance crews that the earliest turbines were still turning after two decades.
“It’s a tough site, and they are definitely working hard.”
He said it was time to start planning for the first wind farm repowering project in Australasia.
“It’s still one of the best sites in the world and has a long future ahead.”
Campbell said the plan was to replace the 103 smallest turbines from the first two stages with 40 larger ones.
They would be able to produce three times the energy of the units they replaced.
Tilt Renewables would soon be applying for resource consents from the Palmerston North City Council and Tararua District Council for the change, which could begin within three years.
He did not expect much opposition to the applications for consent, because the private landowners were well accustomed to the wind farm and strict noise rules meant the sound could not be louder than that of a fridge running at the boundary of any neighbouring property.
Campbell said the changeover would be phased, decommissioning the older units as the new ones came on stream to maintain output from the site throughout.
The project would be simpler than the original construction, as the roading and transmission lines were already in place.
The first two stages of the farm feature Vestas turbines on distinctive lattice towers, with hubs standing 40 metres tall, which generated enough energy to power about 27,000 homes.
The final, third stage of the development in 2007 added 31 Vestas V90-3.0 turbines, which have capacity to generate nearly five times the power as the originals.