Meridian Energy has increased the capacity of individual units at its Benmore Power Station as part of a broader programme of work to explore making this additional capacity available at its hydro stations to help with tight supply and demand conditions that arise in the electricity system, for example during winter peak periods.
The maximum capacity of each of the six Benmore units has been increased by 5MW to 95MW. Overall station output remains at 540MW due to discharge consent limitations, however the additional unit capacity will be valuable when at least one of Benmore’s six units is on outage.
Meridian’s GM Generation Tania Palmer says incremental improvements like this can collectively play an important role to build greater flexibility into New Zealand’s electricity system.
“The growth of intermittent renewable energy as we move closer to 100% renewables means we need to look for new ways to add flexibility to the electricity system to provide security of supply in peak periods when wind and solar generation may not be available.”
“Driving improvements at existing assets like Benmore is one of the ways we can achieve this. This is something we are also exploring at other hydro assets,” says Tania Palmer.
Meridian has also reassessed the maximum capacity of the generating units at Manapōuri Power Station, with its team having identified ways to increase the capacity of each of the seven units by 6.5MW to 131.5MW.
Unlike Benmore, this upgrade requires dispensation from Transpower. This week Transpower made a draft decision declining Meridian’s dispensation application due to concerns about a lack of reactive power in the Southland region if these dispensations are granted.
"We will work with Transpower to try to address their concerns ahead of a final decision and remain hopeful of a positive outcome given the potential benefits these unit capacity increases could offer,” says Tania Palmer.