Height Comparisons

It has been confirmed that Meridian Energy plans to build a new wind farm in the Ohariu Valley, with 31 turbines across 4000 hectares. The proposed site is owned by 5 farmers, who banded together in 2002 to negotiate proposals with various energy companies. Talks had stalled over price issues in 2003, but recently an agreement has been reached.

Having met with the community last night, it is unclear whether the project will face significant opposition from the local residents. Unlike the Makara West Wind project – which is now under way after 2 years of opposition – it looks like they are aiming to take more of a sympathetic approach to local consultation.

At 111 meters high, the turbines certainly aren’t diminutive. Hopefully some form of viewshed analysis will be completed soon; Im uncertain on what impact they would have on views from the greater Wellington region. Note about the diagram to the right: it assumes the height does not take into account the rotor radius at a peak. Also; the model of the turbine used here is generic, not necessarily a reflection of the final design.

As far as I know, the projects budget details have not been released, but based on a rough rule of thumb for wind projects, the farm is likely to cost around $140 million (based on NZ$2 million per megawatt of installed capacity).

With the Government intending to commit to 90% per cent renewable energy by 2025, raising our sustainable production from its current total of 70% is definitely a challenge. Interestingly, an EECA report found that we could meet the energy needs of three New Zealands if we were to harness the potential wind energy of just over 1% of our land. Although that’s not a very viable plan, it does highlight the immense potential available, surely echoed by the resurgence recent wind-based developments recently. On another note, the current cost of generating electricity from wind turbines has fallen to almost one tenth of what it was 30 years ago, and is likely to become even more competitive as gas and coal supplies dwindle.

However, the arguments against wind farms are generally not opposed to the practicalities of the turbines; but upon the effect that they have on the landscape. There is a tendency to view turbines as necessary infrastructure, but aesthetic compromises.

Another perspective is that wind turbines can be seen as an dynamic and unique addition to the landscape (there are many examples of wind farms becoming iconic). However this view is perhaps based on something of a tourist mentality; that the appeal of the turbines is in their drama and novelty, subjects that can quickly grow old with local residents.

Can the machine be a part of the picturesque – or must our landscape remain chaste?

Iconic wind turbines?

Brooklyn Turbine by Jem and Middel Grugen Cooperative by Morten

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