Mercury NZ Ltd has committed to build the remaining 27 consented wind turbines at Turitea, at a cost of $208 million, adding to the 33-turbine windfarm project announced in March.
Mercury chief executive Fraser Whineray said today the energy company had amended its contracts with Danish wind turbine supplier Vestas Wind Systems A/S to complete the windfarm, New Zealand’s largest, at the Turitea site near Palmerston North.
The 222MW 60-turbine wind farm will have the capacity to produce 840GWh/year, enough to power 375,000 electric vehicles.
Mercury’s announcement came 5 days after Parliament passed the Zero Carbon Bill setting up a framework for climate change policy to be developed to achieve the aims of the 2015 Paris Agreement. That includes a target to reduce emissions of all greenhouse gases (except biogenic methane) to net zero by 2050.
Mr Whineray said there was a clear need for significant amounts of renewable electricity to support the path to a low carbon future: “Short-term uncertainty is a feature of our electricity market and we are used to that. On one hand, wholesale electricity prices are currently elevated, mainly due to issues in the gas market which are likely to remain. On the other, the aluminium smelter at Tiwai Point is being reviewed by Rio Tinto, noting that its electricity supply contract with Meridian concludes in 2030.
“Renewable energy projects are about the very long term, and we believe the case is compelling for the completion of this leading North Island windfarm site, situated close to the national grid, supporting New Zealand demand into the future.”
Mr Whineray said the 27 new turbines in the south would have a total capacity of 103MW and would generate 370GWh/year on average: “The southern section of the wind farm will use the same Vestas wind turbine model but will have a higher peak output at 3.8MW/turbine compared to 3.6MW/turbine for the northern section of the wind farm. This 0.2MW/turbine increase in capacity helps compensate for the slightly lower average wind speeds in the south of the site.”
Mercury already generates about 6800GWh/year of renewable electricity, about 17% of New Zealand’s total electricity generation, from its hydro & geothermal stations in the central North Island, near areas of high demand & growth.
It operates solar business Mercury Solar Ltd and has a 60kW solar array at its Penrose research & development centre. Mercury also owns almost 20% of Tilt Renewables Ltd, which operates & develops wind farms in Australia & New Zealand.
Mercury plans to start on-site construction for the southern section of the windfarm this summer in conjunction with existing construction activities. It will fund the estimated $208 million cost from existing debt facilities.
27 March 2019: Mercury commits to wind farm construction
Attribution: Company release.