Wind Has Potential in New Zealand if There is Support

Wind energy in New Zealand could generate almost one-quarter of the country’s total electricity within 15 years, according to a government review.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, NZ, 2001-06-18 [] Wind energy in New Zealand could generate almost one-quarter of the country’s total electricity within 15 years, according to a government review. “In theory, wind turbines are capable of meeting all future growth in electricity demand in the foreseeable future,” says the Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority in a review that was released in May. Currently, wind energy generates 150 GWh per year, or 0.5 percent of domestic generation. If economic and resource consent conditions were favourable, the wind resource could provide 23 percent or 7,900 GWh per year of the country’s present electricity needs at costs of up to 10 c/kWh within 10 to 15 years. The wind energy resource is “significant” and could generate 100,000 GWh a year in the long term because the country lies across prevailing north-westerly winds, with a long coastline and relatively strong winds throughout the year. Thirteen regions have been identified as suitable for potential wind farming, with most on the coast. “Wind power is not economic at present” except in niche opportunities, says the report. The best sites will cost 5 to 6 c/kWh, which it says is 1 to 2.5c/kWh above the cost of the next alternative new generation. There are grid-connected windfarms in Wellington, the Wairarapa and near Palmerston North, with smaller turbines used throughout the islands for stand-alone applications in water pumping, drying timber, crops and clothes. Currently, there is limited use of wind energy, but the contribution toward the reduction of carbon dioxide production “could become significant” if there were widespread adoption of wind technology. “There are significant barriers to the widespread adoption of wind power,” with higher cost as the major obstacle, followed by perceptions of unreliability due to fluctuations in wind flow, and perceptions that it is difficult to obtain approval for site development under the 1991 Resource Management Act. “Wind energy has significant potential in New Zealand but, if it is to be adopted, active steps will be needed to ensure its uptake over the next decade or so,” concludes the report. “Without intervention, it is possible that some wind turbines, generating a few hundred megawatts, maybe installed in the next decade.” New Zealand has a very significant wind power resource. In theory wind turbines could be installed that would be technically capable of meeting all future growth in electricity demand in the foreseeable future. In addition, the total long-term potential has been assessed to be in the order of 100,000 gigawatt hours per year, three times our present generation. This assumes that 1% of the land area in New Zealand would be suitable for wind farming. However because accurate site-specific resource information is unavailable or inadequate to confirm the supply cost-quantity relationships for most of this potential neither the number of wind turbines needed to achieve this level of production, nor the cost of electricity generated from such a scenario has been calculated. On the assumption that resource consents would be granted for specific proposals, and applying engineering judgement to the data that does exist, New Zealand could obtain during the next 15 years electrical energy equivalent to around 23 percent of present day consumption at costs of up to 10 c/kWh. Within this, some hundreds of megawatts could at present be installed for around 6 c/kWh (at September 2000 exchange rates). The focus in Europe is on development of offshore wind projects due to lack of space for onshore sites and superior wind resource, but the higher costs to follow that trend in New Zealand would not be fully offset by the assessed increased energy yields and the delivered energy cost of offshore projects would be higher than land based projects. Common turbines range from 600 kW to 1.8 MW in size, with 2 MW units entering production. In New Zealand, the most cost-effective sizing is considered to be 600 kW to 1 MW range, with larger turbines holding potential where space or environmental constraints are paramount. The “smaller” units are easy to transport and erect, with special equipment required for megawatt class machines. “Wind turbines tend to be very reliable, with availabilities typically averaging 98 percent or better,” it notes. Turbines have an impressive public safety record, although the report notes that a perfect public safety record was marred recently when a change in wind direction caused a parachutist to be blown into a wind turbine in Germany. “There are a number of social and economic implications associated with wind energy development,” but the social benefits “potentially outweigh the economic costs,” it concludes. “Wind energy, as a ‘new renewable’ form of generation is a valuable resource, and will in future be able to contribute a significant proportion of New Zealand’s electricity generation.”
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