One of the distributors, Wairarapa Electricity (WE), is monitoring wind speeds at three sites. The company owns 150 hectares of coastal plans in the south east corner of New Zealand's North Island. The chief executive of WE, Alan Lodge, says preliminary wind data shows winds averaging 8 m/s and the company is "working on the theory that it might be better than that." WE is considering variable speed wind machines for its proposed 25 MW wind farm at Pirimoa and has had approaches from several manufacturers. Currently, New Zealand has only one grid-connected wind turbine, a 225 kW Vestas machine in Wellington. The New Zealand electricity industry is largely based on hydro power with high transmission costs -- a power supply structure that would work well with wind. "Local hydro and wind would allow us to produce 88% of our requirements while using the hydro for storage," says Lodge. WE hopes to have the 25 MW project operating within two to three years.
Whether wind energy will make significant impact on generating sources depends on government policy as the New Zealand electricity industry is restructured for competition. However, generation costs are expected to climb and Lodge believes wind could eventually be cheaper than coal.