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TrustPower Sustainability Celebrated At Waipori Centenary

16 Nov 2007

The importance of renewable energy and the need to develop more sustainable forms of electricity generation have been key issues discussed at the official opening of the Waipori Centenary celebrations.

The Centenary celebrations were officially opened at 10 am today (Saturday 17 November) at the Waipori power station 2A by Dunedin Mayor Peter Chin, Clutha Mayor Juno Hayes and TrustPower Acting Chairman Bruce Harker. The Minister of Energy Hon David Parker also attended the celebrations. As part of the official opening a commemorative plaque was unveiled at the power station and a massive 100th birthday cake was served.

The Waipori Hydro-Electric Power Scheme, which was initially conceived to power the gold dredges on the Waipori River, first started generating power in 1907. TrustPower purchased the scheme from the Dunedin City Council in 1998 and today the scheme comprises of a network of four dams and power stations and produces a maximum output of 84 MW.

At the official opening Hon David Parker said when Waipori was built almost all of New Zealand’s electricity supply came from sustainable resources. He said while New Zealand is still one of the best countries in the world in terms of the amount of electricity derived from sustainable resources, we need to do more.

David Parker said by 2025 the Government is aiming for 90% of New Zealand’s energy to be generated from renewable resources. He said to achieve this goal we need to develop more wind and geothermal generation, as well as a smaller amount of additional hydro capacity.

Speaking at the official opening, Dunedin Mayor Peter Chin said due to Government directives the Dunedin City Council had no choice but to sell the Waipori power scheme.

“To this day, the merits and wisdom of selling are still debated, not withstanding that the proceeds of sale have been ring-fenced in investments…So that in one of those tricks of the arcane world of finance, Waipori continues to generate an income for the city it has served so well for 100 years,” said Mayor Chin.

TrustPower Acting Chairman Bruce Harker spoke about the need to pause and remember the many people who built Waipori and those who worked there, and the families and communities that sustained them.

“All I can say to you is that TrustPower will be a good owner….it is owned by New Zealanders and it thinks like New Zealanders. We see our ownership of Waipori as guardianship. We plan ahead to ensure Waipori will still be here in another 100 years and we have inherent respect for this place and its history,” said Bruce Harker.

Following the official opening of the Waipori Centenary Celebrations the power station is open to the public for a weekend of Open Days today and tomorrow (Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 November). Public interest in the event has been high, with places on the tours booked out weeks in advance of the event. In total, around 500 people will be visiting the power station during the weekend.

TrustPower Community Relations Manager Graeme Purches says the huge response to the Open Days illustrates just how important the Waipori scheme is to the people of Otago.

“The Waipori power scheme has been one of the major drivers of the Dunedin economy over the last 100 years and it’s great that hundreds of Otago residents are getting the chance to see this vital source of renewable electricity first-hand,” says Graeme Purches.

Entry to the Open Days is via a gold coin donation, the proceeds of which will go to the TrustPower Lend a Hand Foundation, an organisation which raises funds to assist small charitable groups and individuals in the Otago region.

Please find background information about the Waipori Hydro-Electric Power Scheme below.

The idea to generate power from the Waipori River was first mooted by Mr John Lawson, a miner who believed the River could be utilised as a source of power to operate the mining dredges.

In 1900 Mr Lawson acquired the water rights for 80 cubic feet of water from the Waipori River, however despite having the rights to the water Mr Lawson could not attract the financial backing required. In 1902 he sold his water rights to W.E. Richardson, who attracted Otago’s prominent businessmen to the scheme and formed the Waipori Falls Hydro-Electric Power Company.

In 1904 the Company sold the scheme to the Dunedin City Council for ₤31,000. The Council contracted an Australian company to complete the design and construction of the scheme, which the Council now intended to supply electricity to Dunedin and surrounding districts. In 1906 the Halfway Bush Substation was built and two transmission lines were constructed from Waipori to Halfway Bush.

On 27 April 1907 the Waipori Hydro-Electric Power Scheme was commissioned. The power station contained two 1,000 kW 2400 volt three phase generators driven by Pelton Wheels, operating under a head of approximately 675 feet. Water was diverted out of the Waipori River by a rock filled timber crib dam but on Opening Day there was not enough water in the River to run the station’s two generators continuously at full capacity. It became obvious that the scheme’s water storage capacity was insufficient.

In 1909 a larger dam on a tributary of the Waipori River was completed forming Loch Loudon and in 1911 another storage facility was commissioned, with the lake formed by this dam named Loch Luella. By 1914 improvements at the power station saw the station’s capacity increased to 6,000 kW.

The Dunedin City Corporation Empowering Act became law in 1920, giving the Council the right to build a 38-foot-high dam on the Waipori River. The dam was completed in 1924 and formed Lake Mahinerangi. In the same year the Empowering Act of 1924 was passed, allowing for the Council to build a 110-foot-high dam on the River.

In 1931 a new 67-foot-high dam on the Waipori River was completed. The dam also included a 3,000 kW power station, known as station No 1 (the original station become known as station No 2). In 1946 this dam was raised to 113 feet.

The Dunedin City Council was given approval to install two further power stations downstream of the No 2 station in 1948. The No 3 station was commissioned in 1954 and the following year power station No 4 starting generating electricity. In 1968 the original power station, No 2, was replaced with a new station named No 2A which, by 1976, had a 72 MW generating capacity.

In June 1980 a massive flood devastated the Taieri Plain and Waipori, flooding the power stations and leaving mud up to two meters high in station No 2A. The Waipori scheme had to be shut down while the clean up took place and the power station was not restored to full generation until October that year.

In 1983 the aging No 1 station was replaced with a new station, named No 1A, and in 1984 an $11 million project to divert water from Deep Stream into the Waipori catchment was completed.

The Waipori power scheme was automated in 1997, meaning the entire scheme could be controlled via a laptop computer. This saw the end of the 24/7 staffing regime at the power station.

In 1998, driven by the Government’s electricity reforms, the Dunedin City Council sold the Waipori scheme to TrustPower for $70 million. From the time of sale the scheme was operated remotely from TrustPower’s Operations Centre in Tauranga. TrustPower reapplied for the resource consents for the Waipori scheme in 2002, with all 35 necessary consents granted. In 2004 work began on a complete overhaul of stations No 3 and 4, with the station upgrades due to be completed in 2008.

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