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Engineering students given opportunity to go behind the scenes at NZ power industry sites

27 April 2023

EPECentre and Aruhiko – PEET hosted 27 engineering students on the four-day South Island Power Systems Field Trip. 


Photo caption: Students at White Hill Wind Farm

The annual field trip, which alternates around the South Island and North Island, is subsidised by Aruhiko-PEET members.

This year the group visited Alpine Energy, the NZ Aluminium Smelter, White Hill Wind Farm (Meridian), Manapōuri Hydro Station (Meridian) and Benmore Hydro Station (Meridian).

Students from the University of Canterbury and the University of Auckland attended the trip, along with a few staff members from UC's Electrical and Computer Engineering and the EPECentre who acted as activity leaders.

Heading south on the first day, the group stopped in Timaru to visit Alpine Energy, electricity distributor for the South Canterbury region. There they enjoyed a tour of the control room and switchyard, and sitting in on a network planning team presentation.

The second day included a visit to New Zealand's Aluminium Smelter (NZAS), NZ’s only aluminium smelter. NZAS is located on Tiwai Peninsula, across the harbour from the community of Bluff in Southland. Aluminium smelting requires a large and very reliable power source to continually supply electricity to reduction cells, and Tiwai Point's proximity to (the then proposed) Manapōuri Power Station made it an attractive location.

The next stop was White Hill Wind Farm, Meridian Energy's second wind farm development and the first in the South Island. In operation since 2007, the wind farm has 29 wind turbines. Southland has strong natural winds that are ideal for power generation. The turbines have a combined capacity of 58 megawatts and generate enough electricity to power over 20,000 homes.

Day three took the group to Manapōuri Hydro Station, thanks to Meridian Energy. The students took a boat to Manapōuri Hydro Station, had a behind-the-scenes tour of the inner workings of the power station, and checked out the tailrace tunnel to Deep Cove.

Manapōuri, NZ’s largest hydro power station, is located on the edge of Lake Manapōuri’s West Arm in the Fiordland National Park. With seven 122-megawatt generating units and an operating maximum station output of 800 megawatts, it generates enough electricity each year to power over 600,000 homes.

On the last day, the group visited Benmore Power Station, another Meridian Energy site. Benmore, the country’s second-largest hydro station after Manapōuri, is located on New Zealand’s largest manmade lake – Lake Benmore – and is NZ’s largest earth dam. It has six 90-megawatt generating units and a generation output of up to 540 megawatts. The students had a behind-the-scenes look exploring the dam and generator hall, had a look inside the stator and visit to the control room.

The last stop was a drive-by look at Benmore HVDC Switchyard. The HVDC Inter-Island link is a high-capacity, bipolar high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission system connecting the electricity networks of the North and South Islands of NZ together and is owned and operated by Transpower.

Students were appreciative to experience the unique opportunities afforded by the trip—many spoke of how memorable and inspiring the visits were, especially for those headed towards a career in power engineering.

It was another successful field trip—thanks to all of our Aruhiko – PEET supporters for making it possible!

Photo caption: the group at Tiwai Aluminium Smelter

Photo caption: Looking at a transformer, deep underground at Manapōuri Hydro Station

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