NZ’S wind en­ergy fu­ture

New Zealand is in the en­vi­able po­si­tion of hav­ing a high pro­por­tion of its electricity cre­ated by re­new­able means. It needs to be higher still.

Element - - Contents - By So­phie Bar­clay

Aotearoa’s nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment gen­er­ated 74% of the electricity used in 2010. Ac­cord­ing to Dr Lawrence Jones, a vis­it­ing au­thor­ity on link­ing re­new­ables into electricity grids, we are well placed to achieve the goal of 95% re­new­able electricity gen­er­a­tion by 2025.

Jones was here early this month ad­dress­ing the at­ten­dees at the New Zealand Wind En­ergy As­so­ci­a­tion con­fer­ence in Hamil­ton.

A study for the US Depart­ment of En­ergy led by Jones, found that grid op­er­a­tors (the good sorts pro­vid­ing us with re­li­able electricity) have un­der­gone a par­a­digm shift – no longer see­ing re­new­ables as prob­lem­atic, but rather a part of the so­lu­tion to a sus­tain­able en­ergy fu­ture.

Crit­ics com­plain that in­creased reliance on re­new­ables cre­ates a need for more re­li­able ‘re­serve’ (read: coal, oil and gas) power sources. Jones, how­ever, says im­proved tech­nol­ogy such as fore­cast­ing (al­low­ing op­er­a­tors to pre­dict blus­tery weather or still patches) and smart grids, which send in­for­ma­tion back to util­ity com­pa­nies, will gen­er­ate a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of pat­terns of de­mand and in­for­ma­tion about en­ergy sup­ply. This en­ables vari­able en­ergy sources to be eas­ily in­te­grated.

De­mand-re­sponse pro­grammes, like let­ting con­sumers choose whether they do their wash­ing at 2 a.m. when the price of electricity is cheaper, or dur­ing peak de­mand time, will ad­dress prob­lems as­so­ci­ated with high de­mand.

Re­new­ables, such as wind, are be­com­ing wide­spread as costs plum­met and tech­no­log­i­cal glitches such as ‘blade glint’ (where the sun catches on tur­bine blades, cre­at­ing an an­noy­ing light flicker) are sur­passed. Global wind power has in­creased dra­mat­i­cally in the past decade from 17 gi­gawatts to 238 gi­gawatts, enough power to sup­ply 100 mil­lion homes. Ac­cord­ing to the NZ Wind En­ergy As­so­ci­a­tion, wind en­ergy here will in­crease from 5% to 20% of sup­ply by 2030.

Jones states that non-re­new­ables will still play a big role in the fu­ture in or­der to meet growth and in­creased

en­ergy de­mand. The Gov­ern­ment-led New Zealand En­ergy Strat­egy 2011 - 2021 is fo­cus­ing on this, with plans for New Zealand to be­come a “highly at­trac­tive global des­ti­na­tion for petroleum ex­plo­ration” and a “net ex­porter of oil by 2030”.

With our strong hy­dropower base, and blos­som­ing wind in­dus­try, we’re on the right track, as­serts Jones, but we need to en­sure we don’t rest on our lau­rels. “You need to tighten up poli­cies so you don’t get com­pla­cent. New Zealand is do­ing well – but the prob­lem is you don’t talk about it a lot.”

Photo: Ted Baghurst

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.