Wellington, New Zealand [RenewableEnergyAccess.com] The New Zealand Wind Energy Association (NZWEA) welcomed the release of a new report on the integration of wind energy in New Zealand which suggests that wind could generate 20 percent of New Zealand’s total electricity needs.The joint report from the government’s Ministry of Economic Development (MED) and Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) looks at the technical and operational potential for integrating wind energy into the existing electricity network, while continuing to maintain high levels of system reliability. James Glennie, Chief Executive of the NZWEA, welcomed the study and said he hoped it would stimulate further debate on the role of wind energy in New Zealand’s generation mix. Last year the total amount of electricity generated nationwide was 40.5 billion kWh. “What this report suggests is that 8.3 billion kWh could have come from wind turbines without compromising the reliability of the grid. In terms of installed capacity this would equal 2,000 MW of wind energy. Today we have 170 MW of installed wind energy. It shows that wind has a critical role to play in New Zealand’s energy mix and that currently the wind is a heavily under-utilized energy resource.” Glennie said the report was the first comprehensive domestic study to examine the limits for national wind energy penetration and to back up its conclusions with data, analysis and extensive references to overseas studies. “It is important that the debate about wind integration is based on objective analysis of the facts rather than subjective statements founded on personal preferences as has been the case in the past. This report significantly helps in this regard. Mr Glennie said he was particularly pleased that the MED had been a partner in this report. “This is a clear indication that Government realizes that the wind industry is ready to substantially contribute to the development of an environmentally responsible, and economically competitive energy policy.” The report also noted that wind turbine technology is evolving extremely quickly. “Wind turbines are now able to address technical concerns such as voltage support, fault ride through, ramp rates and delta control, which, only a few years ago, critics were saying would be show stoppers”. In 2004 the wind industry was the fastest growing energy sector in New Zealand with growth of 360 percent. Seventy MW of new capacity has been consented in the last five months and more than 200 MW is in the consent process.