The unexpected sustainability benefits of building a wind farm

  • Climate Action

A water storage pond built to support the Harapaki wind farm project could find a new use as an emergency reservoir or additional water storage for those hot, Hawke’s Bay summers.

Nicknamed “The Pond” the approximately 20,000m3 storage reservoir was constructed in 2021 to provide on-site water for the massive wind farm while it was being built.

A key objective of the construction at Harapaki has been increasing sustainability and minimising waste. And on-site water storage meant the Harapaki project avoided many thousands of truck movements, lightened the load on local roads from fewer truck movements, and saved about $8M worth of diesel consumption.

The roads on site at Harapaki are all gravel and require regular spraying to keep dust down, so having an onsite source for water trucks to fill up meant the team could quickly respond to any changes in wind direction. Besides dust suppression, the water was also used for the onsite cement batching plant, cleaning turbine components, and the most basic of uses – drinking.

“It’s not just beautiful clean wind we get up here on the Harapaki hills,” Kate Gullery says. “The quality of the water is so good it meets NZ drinking water standards, and our on-site teams happily used it as drinking water!”

At the start of the project a consent was granted to allow water to be pumped from the nearby Mimiha Stream. What wasn’t anticipated was consistent rainfall that allowed the pond to be self-filling for approximately 12 months, reducing the take from the Mimiha Stream and monitoring costs for that period.

Since then, all water take from Mimiha Stream has stopped and the water level now relies solely on rainwater - a positive development for both the project and mana whenua.

“The awa within the Hineuru rohe have great spiritual significance – they’re important in their own right and in their connections to one another,” says Kate Gullery, Meridian Environment and Sustainability Specialist.

“Just as every element of the natural world has its own mauri, each awa in the Hineuru rohe has its own unique mauri and wairua.”

With construction now finished, the project team intends to keep the pond, and besides working with authorities on consents, is consulting with experts to ensure it is safe and fit for purpose.

“Recently, we hosted some local FENZ volunteers for a site visit and they were very enthusiastic about the sheer size of the pond and how much water it holds, “says Ross Berry, Harapaki Site Owner.

“They’d be able to use it for fire control and supply for fire helicopter water buckets, and it could also be used for emergency water for local stock in times of drought.”

Harapaki will be a lasting asset for Hawke’s Bay, and through sustainable features like The Pond, the benefits of this incredible new wind farm could go far beyond clean energy.

The pond at Harapaki