May 8, 2008
New Zealand

Turbines turn into hot topic

Meridian Energy says Windflow Technology’s turbines are too small and noisy and that is why it has shunned the New Zealand technology.

Windflow chairman Barrie Leay strongly criticised Meridian Energy and other state-owned electricity generators on Tuesday for ignoring his company’s turbines and spending more than $1 billion importing European turbines.

However, Meridian Energy spokesman Alan Seay said the company’s engineers had looked closely at Windflow’s turbines, but they unanimously agreed they were not suitable.

“We said at the outset that if there was a suitable New Zealand technology for us to use in our wind farm projects we would be using it.”

Windflow’s 0.5 megawatt machines were not big enough, and Meridian’s engineers had concerns about the noise generated by the two-bladed design, Seay said.

“Everywhere else in the world the trend is for three-bladed machines because they are more efficient.”

He said Windflow had also not been producing turbines in the quantities needed by Meridian, which has a 55-turbine wind farm in Manawatu and 29 turbines at a site in Southland.

It was also building a 64-turbine farm at Makara near Wellington.

Had the company relied on Windflow’s machines none of those farms, which were now making a valuable contribution to the network, would have happened yet, Seay said.

Meridian would not rule out using Windflow, but there would need to be some development or change to the turbine first, Seay said.

Windflow chief executive Geoff Henderson said yesterday it had a better product for New Zealand wind conditions, but he did not want to get into a debate through the media.

However, on Tuesday he said Windflow’s turbine was smaller and had a lesser impact on the environment than the bigger turbines which would be favourable when it came to gaining resource consent.

The 0.5MW machine also used half the steel and concrete of the 2MW machines, and, at $2000 a kilowatt, was cheaper than the $2600 to $3000 a kilowatt cost of European-made designs.

Genesis Energy also defended using German company Enercon to build the 15 turbines at its wind farm in South Wairarapa.

Genesis public affairs manager Richard Gordon said Windflow did not have a commercial model available when it built its wind farm in two stages in 1996 and 2004.

NZ Windfarms, a company set up by Windflow, is using Windflow turbines at the 97-turbine Te Rere Hau wind farm near Palmerston North.

North Canterbury electricity distributor MainPower, which wants to build an 83-turbine wind farm near Waipara, has included Windflow’s turbine in its resource consent along with two other turbines.

By Tina Law

The Press

8 May 2008

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