With warnings of gales and damaging gusts of wind we headed out to visit the West Wind project near Makara in Wellington. It is a bit of an odd thing to do in such windy weather but we did get a great opportunity to view a wind farm really working at top speed!
This wind farm had to fight a lot of local resistance to get built. People complaining about the noise, visual impact and disruption caused whilst it is being constructed. It has been fully completed and contains 62 wind turbines and generates enough electricity to power 72'000 homes.
I think the wind farm is stunning. The funnelling effect of the Cook Strait makes it the perfect place for a wind farm. It was not so easy to build in this location however. As the surrounding hills are steep and the roads narrow and twisting, the turbines were brought in by boat.
This was my first opportunity to see turbines up close. It was a bit of a shock as they are actually reasonably noisy. The make a dull "whoomp" as they turn. That's the best description I can come up with I'm afraid. I am sure someone could come up with a better descriptive but that is how it sounded to me! This, coupled with the general noise made by the wind through the trees, made the atmosphere up there slightly eerie and unsettling on this particular day.
I also think that the arms of the windmills remind me of Tripods (from that weird 80s TV movie) or the machines in War of the Worlds, as they loom above the treeline.
There is a country park built around the wind farm and I can thoroughly recommend some of the walks in this area. The views across the Cook Strait and of the wind farm itself are breathtaking.
I find it odd to think that you are effectively walking through a Power Station. I regularly passed Dungeness Power Station in the UK (a Nuclear Power Station) and used to swim in the sea warmed by its discharged coolant water. I have also lived near several coal and oil fired power stations and watched the continuous smoke rising from their generators.
I know what type of Power Station I would rather my children are exposed to.