The Paekākāriki Wind Generation Project

Wind electricity power generation in this region is a viable sustainable option. Graeme Mills updates us on a proposed Paekākāriki wind generation project that has been in development for the last eight years.

Computer visualisaton of the turbines from the north

A potential wind electricity-generating project exists on the hills above Paekākāriki. The objective of the project is to provide renewable energy to the village of Paekākāriki, with surplus energy distributed via the local line network to other parts of Kāpiti.

It is hoped that the community would have an opportunity to invest in the project and contribute to New Zealand’s sustainability targets in a meaningful way. However, it is unlikely (but not impossible) that the community would be able to fully fund the project – it would need a ‘cornerstone investor’ to make it happen and to operate it on the electricity market. The total capital cost would be between $15 million and $20 million.

The project involves up to five wind turbines with a combined output of 4.5 megawatts. We started taking wind speed measurements in 2014. The results of this, and feasibility studies also undertaken, confirmed that the project is a realistic opportunity and a competitive contender in the New Zealand electricity market.

The lack of land access certainty has delayed a resource consent application for the turbines for over five years. It is hoped that a solution to land access can be found now that Transmission Gully is finished.

A wind monitoring mast was erected on the site in August 2014. The mast height is 31 metres, and while not operating at present, it measured wind at heights of 15 metres, 30 meters and 31 meters. The average wind speed at 30 m over the five years of measuring is about 9.0 metres/second (or 18 Knots, or 32 km/hr).

The Brooklyn wind turbine (L), Paekākāriki wind monitoring mast (R)

The wind turbines are likely to be similar to the ‘new’ Wellington (Brooklyn) wind turbine, with a hub height 45 metres, a rotor diameter 44 meters, and each rated at a power of 900 kilowatts. Five turbines would generate about 15.1 gigawatts/year, equivalent to the load of about 1883 houses per year (@ 8,000 kilowatts/house/year).

Once land access is gained, a resource consent application could be lodged quite quickly, and the project could be operating within three years (subject to gaining those consents).

This vision is a project that directly benefits the community. The concept was given its initial support via the Paekākāriki Community Trust (PCT). The PCT needed to be sure of community support before progressing the wind farm project.

There was consultation with the community that involved information sheets, radio and TV exposure, two public meetings in St Peter’s Hall (approx. 150 people) and a survey of the community. Support from about 95% of the community was expressed.

Computer visualisaton of the turbines from the South, pre-Transmission Gully

So in summary:

  • There is what appears to be a technically and commercially feasible wind project on the hills above Paekākāriki
  • While access to the land required to make it happen has been frustrated for several years, there have been positive discussions recently which could see a solution soon
  • With access to the land, an application for resource consent could be considered
  • Funding for consent studies (ecology, archaeology, cultural etc) and the application itself would need to be sought.
  • Further consultation with key stakeholders and the community would be undertaken to ensure the project is still supported.
  • If consent is gained, then detailed project engineering, procurement and commercial analysis would be undertaken.
  • The development structure in terms of financing and ownership would be determined at this stage.

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