Critics of wind energy like to pretend it is a fringe technology which will never contribute to New Zealand's electricity supply. Why? Well, one reason is that all developments so far have been relatively small - the largest, Te Apiti, is only 91MW, around a quarter the size of the average gas-turbine. That's already changing, with several projects announced in the 200 - 250 MW range, equalling the output of many of our hydro schemes. And now Meridian seems set to put the boot in. In order to meet demand from the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter (New Zealand's biggest single user of electricity, using 15% of our total annual output), Meridian is planning a 650 MW wind farm in Otago. That wouldn't just be the largest windfarm in New Zealand, it would be one of the country's largest generators - larger than the Clyde Dam, and almost twice the size of Might River's coal-fired Marsden B station. If completed, only Huntly and Manapouri would be larger.
Currently, Meridian is gathering wind-speed data to assess the viability of the project. But the fact they're willing to contemplate a project this big is good news for the future of wind (and sustainable energy) in New Zealand.