The Brooklyn (Wellington) Windmill

Nestled high above the city,a lone windmill stands on the western skyline - seemingly standing guard over the city arrayed below it. It's a striking sight, even more so during sunsets when the backlit cloud formations can form a quite spectacular backdrop.

Given Wellington's reputation for wind it is something of a surprise that windmills aren't more common here than they currently are. This was constructed by ECNZ [1] as a test unit to evaluate whether it was worth building a full scale wind farm. Whether this is still being evaluated I am not sure, certainly the suggestion created something of a furore as some people felt that large numbers of windmills would ruin the city skyline and make too much noise. Personally I think it would enhance the skyline, but then I find the slow movement of the large blades quite restful and I don't live terribly close to the windmill.

For anyone who has played the game 'Sentinel' [2] it's positioning will come as no surprise as it stands on a hill top. But what a view! Here is a composite image generated by linking two photographs together digitally, showing the majority of Wellington laid out below.

The view from atop Brooklyn. (54 Kb jpeg)

It is a fairly windy spot, all the better for having a windmill there, and up close it certainly dominates the scenery. 31.5 metres doesn't sound like much really but when you work it out the average floor of a modern building is 3 metres and this comes through when you see people next to it.

The Windmill itself. (13 Kb jpeg)

It is a little hard to see in the thumbnail image, but in the middle left bottom there is someone pointing up at the windmill as well as a few people clustered around the bottom of it.

Looking up the Windmill. (10 Kb jpeg)

An even more fun thing to do, to appreciate the scale of the thing, is stare up the windmill from it's base. Quite dizzying when seen in person, and the movement of the blades certainly doesn't help with this. The last time I was dizzied in a similar way was looking up at the Gateway to the West Arch, although this structure is quite dwarfed by the scale of that monument.

If you are ever in Wellington on one of our balmy summer days and want somewhere to go for a picnic lunch there are few better spots in the city than underneath this windmill. Just make sure you bring at least a light jersey or cardigan as the wind, even on a hot day, can be quite chilling.

Addendum: 14th September 1998

For the past week the windmill has been sitting still, due to failiure of some of the internal components. According to the local papers the parts have burnt out in two years when their operational lifespan is supposed to be five. What is suprising about this is more that the power company people are surprised by this than the fact that it has happened.

Y'see the windmill has been producing power at twice the rate normal for this design. (Generating power for about 120 houses at peak, compared to the normal 60 reported for installations elsewhere in the world.) Couple that with the experience of the first Wellington Airport radar [3], mounted along the same ridgeline on Hawkins Hill, and you have a sure fire situation for increased strain on the windmill.


[1] Which stands for 'Electricity Corporation of New Zealand', another contender for the 'Stunningly Original Company Name' competition.

[2] 'Sentinel' was originally coded for the BBC Model B by Geoff Crammod, who later when on to fame with his Grand Prix games on the PC although he first cut his teeth with the Formula 1 simulation 'Revs' also on the Model B. 'Sentinel' has to be one of the most unusual games ever made. Watching over the landscape is a Sentinel that sucks the life-force out of anything it can see. Your mission is to transport yourself around the map to get a vantage point from which you can suck the Sentinel's life-force out and win.

Aiding you in this are trees, the consumption of which bolsters your life-force allowing you to build bases to leap too and pile up to raise your elevation. (You can't drain the life-force out of anything that is higher than you.) With a landscape generated by a fractal routine and a fish-eye lense view the game was very surreal but surprisingly addictive.

[3] The original radar was purchased off an American supplier who refused to believe the wind strength figures given when the order was placed. As a result the radar supplied was one rated for Alaskan conditions. The net result was that when the wind blew it caught the radar dish and burnt the motor out, as it strained to try and turn the dish against the wind. Subsequently the radar had two motors installed to enable it to cope with the wind strengths.

That radar has been replaced now by an enclosed unit which weathers the wind from inside a protective dome. In some ways I miss the old radar, it's constantly moving dish always provided some movement when you looked out at the hills. And it used to interfere with radio reception in the end room of the house providing a reliable two minute 'zit' noise as the beam swept past.

Philip R. Banks
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