Wind farms off Waikato’s west coast may be a big step closer

An overseas example of a wind farm - the prospects for such facilities off New Zealand coasts is increasing, says a consortium (file).

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An overseas example of a wind farm – the prospects for such facilities off New Zealand coasts is increasing, says a consortium (file).

Wind farms off Waikato’s wild west coast may be a giant step closer following an announcement from an international consortium.

The consortium said in Wellington on Tuesday that it plans to develop four offshore wind projects in Waikato, Taranaki and Southland, with the potential to generate up to five gigawatts of power.

The UK’s BlueFloat Energy, Australia’s Energy Estate and New Zealand’s Elemental Group make up the consortium members.

Energy Estate co-founder Simon Currie told Stuff Tuesday that the consortium would soon make an initial big announcement on what it was doing and hinted that Waikato could be first off the blocks.

“Waikato is a key focus for us. We think it’s got all the right ingredients. “

An announcement could come as early as next month, Currie said.

Tuesday’s statement from the consortium said it was working with Beach Energy New Zealand and other offshore wind farm developers.

Beach has agreed to install equipment on a South Taranaki offshore platform to measure wind and to share the data, a statement said.

BlueFloat’s chief executive Carlos Martin said the consortium was interested in an “inclusive offshore wind energy industry, not just projects”.

The consortium was confident Aotearoa offered “great potential” for offshore wind energy and “the first turbines are expected in the water before the end of the decade”, Martin said.

Offshore wind could help achieve major renewable energy goals for Aotearoa to complement other renewable sources.

The consortium’s interest in the Waikato’s west coast was revealed earlier this year in a report to the regional council’s climate action committee.

Blair Dickie from the regional council says the Waikato is pretty much a “goldilocks region” for offshore wind and distributing power from offshore turbines (file).

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Blair Dickie from the regional council says the Waikato is pretty much a “goldilocks region” for offshore wind and distributing power from offshore turbines (file).

The council’s principal strategic advisor Blair Dickie said then that Waikato was being viewed very favorably for such investments due to its wind assets and accessibility to good power distribution networks.

“It’s pretty much a Goldilocks region,” Dickie told Stuff.

“There’s certainly a lot of good that comes together in the Waikato.”

Dickie said the scale of the wind projects was large “in the gigawatt range, potentially occupying hundreds of square kilometers in the exclusive economic zone and coastal marine area”.

Anchored wind turbines would have smaller environmental footprints and could co-exist with the likes of Maui dolphins and low-impact “commercial recreational fishing”. Standing structures could also be used and, if appropriately designed, would have “reduced impact on sensitive species”.

At the time, a director of New Plymouth-based Elemental Group Brett Rogers said initial offshore wind farm projects can take a decade or so.

“So, in that context, we’re only just beginning,” he said.

“They’re large, and they take a while.”

New Zealand had a lot of renewable energy capacity and the group wants to support growth in using such sources for energy exports.

“We’re really keen to help develop opportunities for New Zealand to think about providing energy for others, other than ourselves,” said Rogers.