Having left the south island behind, the northern leg began by zooming into the present day in Tauranga at Trustpower, talking to Deion Campbell about the Tararua windfarm; evidence that, while the historical stories are impressive, we are still leading the world today in the energy sector.
And Tauranga offered the opportunity to capture another, more obscure, but no less significant historical event. On a site that is now Tauranga Primary School (5th Ave) once sat what was possibly the world’s first house that was fully electric. Yep, in 1915, Lloyd Mandeno managed to convince a young couple (Robert and Sarah Ready) to build a house with no chimney. This included a full supply of hot water (not just a kettle) via Mandeno’s water heater.
A hike to Okere Falls (Rotorua) got us to what might be one of the highlights of the trip: the ruins of the world’s first government foray into hydro power stations. After debating at length the health and safety implications of getting down to the site with camera gear (on the side of a raging torrent), we decided that’s what drones were for. Epic drone flying and footage from Matt, much to the amazement of onlookers…
Then it was a switch to geothermal – a great conversation with Kevin McLaughlin from Tauhara North No 2 Trust about the world-leading Nga Awa Purua power station, which was followed by a morning at Wairakei power station as a host of Contact Energy. Mike Dunstall and Maria Johnston guided us to some wonderful opportunities for filming, and got to see an impressive 60s paint job applied to Wairakei A station.
If you ever get a chance to have Kevin explain what the TN2T logo means, it’s worth it. The wall of their boardroom shows the progression beautifully.
Back into Indiana Jones mode, hunting for some Single Wire Earth Return (another Mandeno invention) on the side of SH32. Thanks to Adam Fletcher from The Lines Company for pointing us in the general direction, but we were starting to doubt you, mate. But your Tihoi pick came through, and there it was. In 1997, Stephen told his PhD supervisor he would never have anything to do with transmission…but here he was, on the side of SH32, waxing lyrical about the wonders of transmitting power by a single conductor, instead of three.
The tour completed with a stop at the closest hydro plant to Auckland – Karapiro; the first out of the blocks of Kissel’s grand plan to build 800MW of generation on the Waikato River.