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New Zealand

New Zealand

Utility Mighty River Power buys into domestic turbine maker

Mighty River Power, a large New Zealand electricity generator, is to take a 19.95% stake in Windflow Technology, the country's only wind turbine manufacturer. The purchase is expected to be worth NZ$7 million for Windflow, the developer of the 500 kW, two-blade design that has struggled to find buyers in its home market. Windflow shareholders will gather at a special general meeting this month to approve the share placement. The investment comes alongside a turnkey agreement for supply of the Windflow turbine for Mighty River's first wind farm, a project of 20 to 50 turbines. The company is looking to apply for resource consent for the scheme at Long Gully, an area of privately-owned farmland behind the site of a long-standing Vestas 225 kW turbine at Brooklyn, on a hill above the city of Wellington and operated by Meridian Energy since 1993. Mighty Power, which to date has concentrated on hydro and geothermal power, aims to bring 500 MW of wind power online by 2015. Windflow's Sheralee MacDonald says the 500 kW turbine is ideal for the Wellington site. Its small size makes it easy to transport over the notoriously rugged hills of the region with minimal disruption or infrastructure needs compared to larger machines. In addition, MacDonald says the proprietary technology of the torque-limiting gearbox system of power control and the pitch regulated, teetering rotor are well-designed to handle the extremely turbulent conditions and high wind speeds encountered in blustery southerly winds coming off Cook Strait. At full capacity the site will likely run at 10 MW. Meridian's nearby West Wind project at Makara, finally under construction after years of resource consent and Environment Court hearings, appeals and protests, will have a generating capacity of 140 MW made up of 61 Siemens 2.3 MW turbines. The expected load factor at Makara is a high 48%. Action for the Environment, one of the groups that opposed the Makara development, is planning to study Mighty River's site proposal once it gets to resource consent stage, expected some time in the next six months.

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