Contact Energy has announced a project to replace half of the 60-year-old hydropower turbines at the 320MW Roxburgh Power Station over the next five years has begun, with Voith contracted to work on the project.

Roxburgh Power Station was commissioned between 1956 and 1962 and still generates with the eight original Canadian built turbines, the first four were installed in 1956/57 and the second four in 1960/61.

The current project will see four of the power station’s eight hydro turbines replaced, with the first new turbine scheduled to come online in 2024. 

The replacement turbines will be designed using modern engineering and manufacturing techniques resulting in more efficient use of the existing water flows, delivering an additional 44GWh of energy in an average hydrology year.

“While a turbine replacement project isn’t as grand as a new build, we are constantly looking for ways to demonstrate operational excellence and improve our generation efficiency. We want to make the best use of the precious taonga we are responsible for,” explained Contact CEO Mike Fuge. “We expect Voith will supplement its international experts with local construction workers and NZ based contractors, which is positive news for the local Alexandra and Roxburgh communities. Projects like these will have real, tangible benefits for our local communities.” 

Fuge said the original turbines have performed “extremely well” for 70-year-old technology, and have provided clean, renewable electricity for New Zealand since the 1950s.  

Stephen Lewis, President and CEO of Voith Hydro APAC, said that Voith Hydro is honoured to be associated with the efficiency and performance improvement of the turbines at the historic Roxburgh Power Station. The project will be executed in collaboration between Voith Hydro Engineering centres in US, Germany and India and the new turbines shall be manufactured at Voith Hydro’s manufacturing facility in Vadodara (India). The site works will be supplemented by local construction workers from a New Zealand based subcontractor.

Once the design, scale model testing, and fabrication are completed by Voith Hydro, the turbines will be shipped to New Zealand. Contact expects the first unit to arrive in 2023. Each turbine requires approximately six months of installation and commissioning work before it begins operation.