Local Wind Power: ‘Like Eating Your Own Veggies’

We bring you all the latest news on the political sniping and environmental controversy that wind power engenders, so how about a change of pace? Here’s a wholly positive tale, provided by the good green people of New Zealand on Global Wind Day.

The occasion was the opening of the Mount Stuart wind farm down at the south end of New Zealand’s South Island. The developer, Pioneer Generation, had planned the event for the wind farm itself, but a couple of inches of snow — yep, it’s winter down there — moved the proceedings to a hall in the little down of Waitahuna, where 100 people turned out.

mt. stuart wind farm, new zealand

image via Gamesa

From the report in the Otago Daily Times, the mood was celebratory, with no evidence of the dismay that sometimes accompanies wind power’s arrival in a community.

Maybe the reporter missed it. Maybe all the wind foes didn’t get the memo that the event had moved from the wind farm, and they were up in the snow waving signs that said, “Stop The Mt. Stuart Wind Fraud.” Or maybe folks there just like clean energy.

Could be, too, that the wind farm’s scale makes it more people-friendly. Your typical U.S. wind farm checks in with 1.6-megawatt turbines, often dozens of them, all on poles at least 80 meters tall. The Mount Stuart wind farm consists of nine Gamesa 850-kilowatt turbines atop towers that are a relatively modest 45 meters high.

In addition, this wind farm is directly benefiting the community. I don’t mean with tax revenues or jobs, although that might also be the case. I mean that the power from this wind farms keeps the milk cold in locals’ refrigerators and provides light for students to study by at night. It stays in the community, on a regional electric system, instead of being fed onto the national grid.

The farmer who owns the land where the wind farm was built was pleased as punch, and uttered what is surely one of the best pro-wind quotes in history.

“There’s 3,000 homes getting power from here — all used locally,” Rob Hewett told the Daily Times. “It’s great for the community, great for everyone really. It’s a bit like eating your own veggies.”

And we all know that your own veggies, in addition to being cheaper, always taste better than the store-bought stuff.

By the way: The kids at the Waitahuna School have been learning about wind power, and had a bunch of questions for Pioneer Generation. You might find some of your own wind power questions answered on the school website.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.