Cover story: Hidromeks in Hawke’s Bay

By: Steve Atkinson, Photography by: Supplied

Deals on Wheels checked out a major civil construction project in Hawke’s Bay, where Hidromeks are being used to prepare ground for the Harapaki Wind Farm

Judging by the surrounding landscape, it’s pretty easy to see why Meridian Energy chose the site to construct its latest wind farm located 35km northeast of Napier on State Highway 5, a little north of Te Pohue. The site reaches 1100 metres at its highest point and, importantly, is positioned in the right place to take advantage of the wind resource.

It’s here that 41 wind turbines will soon be installed and when fully operational will provide 176MW of renewable energy, enough to power 70,000 average households. Construction is expected to take around three years and will create 260 new jobs.

"Our vision is for Harapaki to be New Zealand’s most sustainable wind farm and one that delivers transformative economic growth and advances our goals for climate action," says Meridian Energy CEO Neal Barclay.

Meridian currently has five wind farms in operation around New Zealand and say the latest farm will use advanced European wind generation technology and sustainable construction practices, with design reviews reducing the overall carbon footprint of the project by an impressive 30%.

Challenging site

Five Hidromek excavators and two Hidromek compactors are currently on-site

But, before any of that happens, there’s the none-to-small matter of preparing for the arrival and installation of the 85-metre-tall towers that will hold the three 58.8-metre fibreglass blades and generator of each wind turbine.

With a variation of almost 400 metres in elevation, work on the challenging site consists of various infrastructure projects, from bulk earthworks to roading, high voltage cable installation, foundations and crane hardstands for each turbine, construction of a new substation, not to mention all those other small jobs that form part of the large infrastructure project.

In charge of the construction of all the roads, turbine foundations, and crane hardstands is the Hick Bros Spartan Joint Venture.

A test for Hidromek

All the excavators are fitted with Robur tilt hitches and auto-greasing systems/div>

One must not forget the logistics of finding staff who are prepared to travel and work each day in a remote location, so having machinery that the operators like and respect must go a long way towards ensuring they turn up each morning with a smile on their face.

Someone who does have a smile on his face is New Zealand Hidromek distributor, founder and director Liam Field, whose company Magnum Equipment was selected by Hick Brothers Civil Construction Ltd (Hick Bros) to supply a number of excavators and rollers for the project. Founded in 1986 and based in Silverdale, north of Auckland, Hick Bros is well-experienced with large projects and have an extensive fleet of machinery. After taking delivery of their first Hidromek machine in 2019 (DOW 307), it now includes a number of the brand, all of which are working at the Harapaki site.

"Our machines aren’t the only ones on-site," says Liam. "There are other brands, but I think Hick’s thought this would be a good opportunity to compare our equipment to the others at the one location. Fuel economy and fatigue monitoring of operating staff would be one thing I’d be closely looking at if I were them."

Forming part of the Hidromek fleet on-site is three 23-tonne HMK230LCH4 excavators, two 31-tonne HMK310LCH4 excavators, along with a 13-tonne HMK130CS compactor and a smaller 11-tonne HMK110CS compactor. All the excavators are supplied with full Robur ram-tilt hitches and are supplied with on-board auto greasing systems.

"Our main focus with Hidromek is to supply heavy-duty machines that are up to working in challenging environments with minimal fuel consumption and a safe and comfortable work space for the operator, " says Liam.

A closer look

Hidromek compactors have bolt-on shells, so can also be used as a single-drum roller

Zeroing in on Hidromek, the H4-series of excavator is the latest model available from the European manufacturer, who in 2020 celebrated building its 50,000th machine. Magnum Equipment’s regular excavator supply range varies in size from 14 tonnes through to 50 tonnes, and there are a number of other types from materials handlers to wheel loaders, graders, and backhoes available.

On-site at Harapaki, Hick Bros’ 23-tonne HMK230LCH4 excavators each run an Isuzu AI-4HK1X four-cylinder turbo/intercooled engine that outputs 172hp(128kw)@2000rpm, providing max torque of 677Nm@1600rpm.

Moving across to the larger 31-tonne HMK310LCH4 models, the power is upscaled to allow for the increased weight with a six-cylinder Isuzu AH-6HK1X turbo/intercooled engine that outputs 216hp(161kW)@1800rpm to provide a maximum torque of 940Nm@1500rpm. All Hidromek excavators are fitted with pumps from Japanese supplier Kawasaki.

Taking a closer look at the Hidromek HMK130CS and HMK110CS compactors, the manufacturer has chosen to use the well-respected European-made Deutz TCD2012L042V engine to power both models. The 138hp(103kW)@2400rpm provides a vibration frequency of 27.4-30Hz and the HMK130CS is designed to operate on 46% slope in working mode.

"The Hidromek machines are proving to show that they are economical to run," says Dan Hohneck, Hick Bros general manager.

"Not having AdBlue means one less thing to worry about on such a remote, logistically challenging site. Remote login to ECMs is also useful to track operating hours, fuel burn, servicing, and operator behaviour."

Mainstream machines

Hidromeks are operating alongside other brands in the Hick Bros fleet

Working on large projects is a sign that the brand has gained acceptance from the big players in the civil construction market, and it appears Hidromek has crossed that threshold.

"I think the key point to take away from our machines in the Hick Bros fleet is that Hidromek has passed the point of being an interesting brand that a few forward-thinking smaller operators decided to trial in their fleets," says Liam.

"When a large, experienced company like Hicks Bros stands up and says, ‘we like what we see’, then that tells me Hidromek are now part of the mainstream of machinery in New Zealand."

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