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Tararua Wind Farm – To Stand the Test of Time

Published on 20th of May 2020

Clive Turton
President and CEO of Asia Pacific at Vestas

In a long-term industry, as the wind industry is starting to become – where years can separate a wind farm’s initial order, start of construction, and finally its connection to the grid – there are plenty of milestones to celebrate.

In December 1999 the first 48 turbines of Tararua Wind Farm in New Zealand reached official commercial operation. And in February of this year, the site formally celebrated its 20-year anniversary. Even after two decades the site remains one of the best performing wind farms in the world.

There are not too many wind farms around the globe that have been around long enough to be celebrating a 20th anniversary. The Tararua Wind Farm has literally stood the test of time in many ways: First, the Vestas technology, although it has significantly advanced in the last two decades, is still performing at the best possible capacity. Second, our long-term maintenance and service which has achieved outstanding results – maintaining the products’ high-performance year after year. And last, the Vestas team members who are still proudly working with the company today, have themselves improved with age!

Built in the remote terrain of the Tararua Range outside of Wellington, New Zealand, this groundbreaking project was established during a pivotal time for renewable energy development in the southern hemisphere. The first phase of the project began with 48 Vestas V47-660kW turbines, and the second followed in 2004 with the installation of an additional 55 V47-660kW turbines. Due in part to the close collaboration between Vestas and Tilt Renewables, the project was successfully completed ahead of schedule. Three years later, 31 Vestas V90-3MW turbines were added to the wind farm. After all three phases, the project now delivers power to more than 70,000 homes annually.

Twenty years on, the original turbines have already generated more than twice the expected design life. Continuing to achieve reliability as if they were new turbines, the collaboration between Vestas and Tilt Renewables speaks volumes about the success of the dynamic partnership. “Operating this wind farm successfully has been the result of a long-term commitment by Tilt Renewables and Vestas in sharing an open and collaborative partnership, one that now influences the other projects we undertake together,” commented Tilt Renewables CEO Deion Campbell. “Vestas does what it says it will and does not focus only on the short term, letter of the contract.” he continued, “we really enjoy the open and collaborative relationship that has developed between us.”

Such a project would not have been able to maintain its success if it wasn’t for the professional and social relationships that formed along the way. With 20 years since the project was finalised, there are several members of the original team still working as part of the Vestas family. The passion and dedication of our employees are what allow us to continue to innovate and push the limits of the industry, all the while keeping our customer’s satisfaction at the forefront of any project. “It stands out as one of the best experiences I have had professionally and personally in my career. The team effort on this project was very unique,” said Berit Lennert Puggaard, Vestas Project Manager of Tararua Wind Farm following construction completion.

(This image was captured in New Zealand, February 2020 prior to the COVID-19 social distancing rules)

The close collaboration between Vestas and Tilt Renewables has also allowed the businesses to innovate together. By sharing data from the performance of the Tararua turbines, the learnings from the V47s have played an influential role in the evolution of the product. The design and technology have significantly advanced since 1999 and the turbines at Tararua Wind Farm have contributed to the Vestas products we see today. Thanks to the long-term collaboration between the two companies, Tararua also continues to operate better than newer turbines on either side of the project, something Tilt Renewables CEO Deion Campbell attributed to the continued involvement and support from Vestas.

Tararua Wind Farm is another iconic global example of why Vestas is the world leader in wind generation and more broadly, sustainable energy solutions. We create technology that stands the test of time, but we also offer life-long services that is underpinned by product expertise, passion and a commitment to see our customers achieve their best results. Tararua Wind Farm remains New Zealand’s largest wind farm to this day, both in terms of number of turbines and installed capacity. The site is also destined to set the Vestas record as the first wind farm with all 31 V90-3MW turbines producing well over one hundred million kilowatt hours to date – further cementing the site's reputation as one of the best in the world.

The year 1999 was the year the Tararua Wind Farm stage 1 was commissioned. It was also in 1999 when the European currency the Euro was launched, it was the year when Brittany Spears released her debut single “Hit Me Baby One More Time”; and it was the year that Lance Armstrong won his first Tour de France. We’ve moved on a long way since these events, and at Vestas we are no longer talking about the V47 as the cutting-edge turbine, today we are commonly discussing the V150 and V162 and beyond.

The guys at Tilt Renewables also recognise how much time has passed, and they recently shared with us this classic throwback film, also produced back in 1999 to introduce the site shortly after it’s inauguration.

We look forward to reviewing all of these developments after another 20 years of cooperation between Vestas and Tilt Renewables!

Tararua Wind Farm 20th Anniversary from Tilt Renewables on Vimeo.

The Tararua Wind Farm machines are running well and are expected to for at least 5 more years. A sincere thank you is extended to all the Vestas and Tilt Renewables champions involved, both past and present.

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