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SIT Engineering Students Experience Of ‘Renewables’ A First

In what was a first for the School of Advanced Engineering at Southern Institute of Technology, six New Zealand Diploma in Engineering (Mechanical) and Graduate Diploma in Engineering (Mechanical) students were recently invited on a two-day field trip to gain insight and firsthand knowledge about the south’s renewable energy sites operated by Meridian Energy.

Held on May 20th - 21st, the field trip incorporated Meridian Power Stations at White Hill Wind Farm near Mossburn, and the Manapouri Hydro Station at West Arm on Lake Manapouri.

At the wind farm, students observed the technology and engineering involved in wind turbines, demonstrating the theoretical concepts from their in-class learning. Owing to the fine day, students were able to do a climb inside the turbines and view their internal structure.

The Manapouri Hydro Station offered an up-close and thorough view on the process of hydroelectric power generation, where students were notably surprised by the size and intricate nature of the facility.

New Zealand Diploma in Engineering (Mechanical) Year 2 student, John Felton, said the most interesting new information he gained on the field trip was the controversy around raising the Manapouri lake level, “the subsequent push back, and the start of New Zealand's environmental conscience”.

Mr Felton was impressed with Manapouri Power Station, describing it as “an imposing site from a formidable engineering feat”. Tucked away in the amazing scenery of Fiordland National Park, “it’s hard to comprehend until you see it firsthand”, he added.

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Whitehill Wind Farm was “a close second for scenery and impressive infrastructure”.

The field trip has helped Mr Felton to think about the possible employment opportunities open to him when he finishes his studies. “Renewable power generation has a strong future and Meridian sounds like a great employer,” summing up, “it was an excellent trip, it will be hard to top”.

Programme Manager and Engineering Tutor, Carlo Gabriel, said there were several highlights for him over the two days. “An outstanding feature was the chance for students to directly witness the complex workings of renewable energy facilities.”

The underground location of the West Arm powerhouse and “the engineering marvel” of the Deep Cove tail-race tunnel highlighted the resourcefulness and difficulties inherent in extensive renewable energy initiatives.

Overall, Mr Gabriel found the field trip provided an excellent learning experience by allowing students direct contact with industry professionals. “They provided valuable information regarding the day-to-day operations, maintenance, and challenges in managing renewable energy resources.” Mr Gabriel is expecting the field trip to become a regular annual event on SIT’s engineering programme.

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