The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FRST), of New Zealand, has approved around NZD$6 million (US$3.9 million), to be spread over four years, to fund four new renewable energy research projects as part of its new energy technologies investment that will start in July 2004.Auckland, New Zealand – December 11, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] The research will include wave power generation, the conversion of wood waste into energy, turning waste pond sludge into useful gas, and the development of an innovative and cost-effective wind turbine. The research is designed to investigate environmentally friendly ways to supply energy to New Zealanders. With New Zealand’s energy use increasing every year, FRST was looking for proposals that would pioneer new technologies for creating renewable energy technologies for power supply throughout the country. The new research will build on FRST’s existing investments in this area, which brings the total investment in developing new energy technologies to about NZD$5.5 million (US$3.6 million) per annum. “The projects selected brought together strong research teams with good user connections and partnerships,” said FRST Reference Group Chair George Hooper. Nevertheless, FRST was concerned that a number of declined proposals continued to focus on resource definition or market analysis without the necessary involvement of engineering or technology understanding. “If New Zealand is to advance the application of international best practice in emerging energy technologies, so as to meet future supply needs, there needs to be more attention given to developing engineering science capability with the research effort more focused on prototype development and novel applications,” said Hooper. “New Zealand must lose its No 8 fencing wire philosophy and begin to look to the development of young or emerging engineering talent capable of taking the new international technology platforms through to application. This, in turn, requires an increase in the number of research engineers and technologists within our science system. The Schools of Engineering within New Zealand’s tertiary institutions should be taking a lead in these fields.” The details of the approved New Zealand renewable energy research programs are as follows: The University of Canterbury will receive funding to develop a system that uses readily available woody biomass (such as forest industry wastes) for the generation of electricity and thermal energy in New Zealand. The technology converts woody biomass into a gas, which then powers large turbines to produce power. According to FRST, this technique, called the biomass integrated gasification combined cycle (BIGCC) system, has numerous advantages including high efficiency (over 80 percent), low emission and flexibility to produce electrical and thermal energy. To transfer this technology to New Zealand, studies are required to evaluate, improve and optimize the system. FRST stated that new technologies would be developed for medium-scale energy plants using radiata pine residues. The development of cost-effective Wave Energy Converters (WEC) in New Zealand to generate electricity will be the focus of a four-year project led by Industrial Research Limited. FRST said wave power is a potentially important renewable resource; and the researchers estimate that New Zealand’s near-shore wave energy exceeds the current electricity consumption by over 40 times. The WEC design will include novel gearless conversion and “smart technology” adaptive control. According to FRST, this technology has the potential to achieve a breakthrough in electricity generation from renewable resources and capture key intellectual property for New Zealand. The National Institute for Atmosphere and Water (NIWA) and Wellington, New Zealand-based Power Projects Limited will play vital roles in the program. NIWA will also be leading its own energy research program that will look at developing a system to turn treatment pond sludge into renewable energy. The energy recovery system will have wide application in rural communities, farms and industries, which already use ponds to treat organic wastes. The system aims to enhance anaerobic (non-oxygen) treatment in these ponds which would increase biogas production to levels where thermal and electrical energy production is economical and, in addition, would increase wastewater treatment efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas and odor emissions. In addition, the earthen pond-based anaerobic treatment system is affordable and can be incorporated into existing pond infrastructures. UNITEC, the New Zealand Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, in Auckland, will research a new wind generation system that is energy efficient, economic and environmentally suitable for urban or remote generation. Based on key design changes to a new twisted cylinder wind turbine and its integration with domestic energy systems, it aims to achieve cost, return and energy production characteristics attractive to a domestic or commercial environment. Although intended for installation within New Zealand, FRST reported that the wind cylinder is ideally suited to any other (windy) environment, to remote areas without grid supply, or to regions affected by short or medium-term power supply disruption.