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Historic New Zealand hydropower plant getting four-year rehabilitation

Power generator Meridian Energy has announced a four-year, US$34 million rehabilitation of its 90-MW Waitaki hydroelectric plant.

The Waitaki hydropower project was originally completed in 1935 with two 15 MW hydro turbines and has since undergone several expansions to bring the plant to its current capacity. The plant now features seven 15 MW turbine units, though only six are operational.

"The Waitaki power station is a historic part of New Zealand's electricity network," said Neal Barclay, Meridian's General Manager Markets and Production. "Despite it being almost 80 years old, it will continue to provide reliable and sustainable electricity for many generations to come."

The company said it will strengthen the powerhouse -- primarily to make it more resilient against seismic activity -- while maintaining the structure's architectural look.

The rehab project will also reinstate Waitaki's seventh generating unit, which, according to Barclay, "hasn't operated for a number of years."

Work will begin in April, though Meridian said the project should have little effect on the surrounding communities.

The Waitaki hydropower station is one of three Meridian-operated plants along the Waitaki River.

HydroWorld.com reported in January 2013 that Meridian had stopped development of another Waikati River project, which would have added 260 MW of hydroelectric capacity.

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