Wind en­ergy

Element - - Finance -

There’s a lot of wind in this nar­row, bony coun­try, which is why the amount of wind en­ergy com­ing on stream is grow­ing at 28 per cent a year. Wind now ac­counts for nearly five per cent of our elec­tric­ity sup­ply, to­talling 1930 GWh, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by economists BERL for the New Zealand Wind En­ergy As­so­ci­a­tion (NZWEA). As at the end of 2011 there were 16 oper­at­ing wind farms with a ca­pac­ity of about 623MW, with Merid­ian, Trustpower and NZ Wind­farms the main play­ers. Most of the tur­bines are in the lower North Is­land. The Min­istry for Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment’s lat­est en­ergy out­look pre­dicts an an­nual growth rate in wind gen­er­a­tion of just 5.1 per cent, which means a to­tal of about 4300 GWh by 2030. The NZWEA says the MED has been con­sis­tently wrong in its fore­casts, and it’s pick­ing steady growth to 3500 MW by 2030, giv­ing 12,700GWh of ca­pac­ity, enough to sup­ply 20 per cent of the coun­try’s expected elec­tric­ity de­mand. As­so­ci­a­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive Eric Pyle says al­most a third of TrustPower’s gen­er­a­tion ca­pac­ity now comes from wind, with Merid­ian run­ning about 13.5 per cent. “Wind is now a main­stream source of gen­er­a­tion in New Zealand and glob­ally. Peo­ple know how to use the tech­nol­ogy and con­nect it to grids. On­shore wind farm­ing is very cost com­pet­i­tive,” he says. With steady winds expected at most sites, the ef­fi­ciency fac­tor of wind farm­ing here is more than dou­ble that of places like Ger­many, so it is treated al­most like base line power. Al­most, which is why gen­er­a­tors of­ten pair wind with hy­dro, which can be switched on if the wind stops blow­ing. “We are also see­ing a trend of smaller wind farms in lo­cal net­works, so it’s a more dis­trib­uted model that helps with grid sta­bil­ity. By spread­ing out their gen­er­a­tion, com­pa­nies are spread­ing the risk,” Pyle says. Pyle says while the in­dus­try here is largely an im­porter of tech­nol­ogy, “be­cause our wind re­sources are so good, com­pa­nies learn a lot about the tur­bines, and de­velop lo­cal so­lu­tions to prob­lems that can be­come niche prod­ucts that are re-ex­ported. “In­ter­na­tion­ally there has to be more re­new­ables. New Zealand is well placed to de­velop in­dus­tries with ex­port po­ten­tial.” That’s some­thing Merid­ian is al­ready do­ing with its in­vest­ment in wind farm­ing across the Tas­man. Ex­ter­nal re­la­tions man­ager Guy Waipara says the Aus­tralian mar­ket is much big­ger, and in­cen­tives in place to en­cour­age a shift from its pre­dom­i­nantly coal and gas-fired ther­mal gen­er­a­tion make in­vest­ment at­trac­tive. “You can’t make money solely from the en­ergy mar­ket be­cause it is dom­i­nated by sunk cost coal plants, so re­new­ables need a leg up,” Waipara says. “New Zealand as far as we know is only place you can build re­new­ables com­mer­cially with­out a sub­sidy.”

The ef­fi­ciency fac­tor of wind farm­ing here is more than dou­ble that of places like Ger­many.

Photo: Ted Baghurst

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