By Paul Gorman
He had a dream. Yesterday it came true.
Five hundred metres up on a Manawatu ridge blasted by 45 knots of screaming westerly, Geoff Henderson’s dream of generating commercial-scale electricity from New Zealand-made turbines finally came true.
The Christchurch engineer and businessman has taken his New Zealand Exchange-listed turbine manufacturing company Windflow Technology and its shareholders on a rollercoaster ride in the past few years.
He has struggled against persistent noise problems with a prototype turbine at Gebbies Pass near Christchurch and faced possible ruin when a southerly squall ripped the blades and the gearbox from the turbine’s tower in March last year.
However, at 2.35pm yesterday, 30 years of hard work were rewarded when Prime Minister Helen Clark battled the wind and flicked the switch of the first five two-bladed, 500-kilowatt turbines at New Zealand Windfarms’ Te Rere Hau site on the Tararua Ranges near Palmerston North.
The turbines that had been sitting crucifix-like across the skyline, blades horizontal, revved gently into life and began pumping electricity into the Manawatu below.
It was a big moment for NZ Windfarms, a Windflow spin-off company that plans to have 97 of its turbines in place by the end of 2008 in an $80 million project. However, most agreed it was really Henderson’s day.
As well as the Prime Minister, Energy Minister David Parker and MP for Palmerston North and Research, Science and Technology Minister Steve Maharey were there to see it happen.
Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, a Windflow shareholder, paid tribute to Henderson, who 30 years ago embarked on a mechanical engineering degree with a far-reaching view of developing wind energy in New Zealand.
Then 15 years ago, knowing its potential, he bought the Te Rere Hau site ““ the first land in the country to be set aside specifically for a wind farm.
Fitzsimons said Henderson had followed a dream for many years.
“People said he couldn’t do it with New Zealand-designed turbines. People said it was too noisy. When a freak wind damaged it, people said he wouldn’t get it going again. But he has. This is a tribute to his professionalism and dedication.”
Asked how he felt, Henderson said: Good, happy, vindicated.
“It’s been 30 years. I never thought I was getting into it to establish a wind company, I thought I might have achieved it by working for someone else.
“My prediction is that for the next two decades, close to 100 per cent of all new generation will come from wind. Windflow will make and carve as big a niche as it can.”
Despite all the tribulations, the only time he had felt like throwing in the towel was in the late 1990s, when it looked like overseas turbine manufacturers would be able to provide turbines in New Zealand at a lower cost, he said.
The Prime Minister told about 300 people at the opening that what Windflow and NZ Windfarms staff had achieved was simply phenomenal. “It is fantastic that this is the first wind farm to be built in the country using Kiwi design and technology Today is a very happy day, as we march to a more sustainable energy future.”
Windfarms chief executive Chris Freear said Te Rere Hau was the first of a number of wind farms that would be developed around the country.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding