Green light for London Array

The world’s biggest offshore wind project, the London Array, just took one step closer to reality as the required 2.2 billion euros in finance has been secured, despite the global financial meltdown.

We have a tremendous offshore wind resource, but in relatively deep water where fixed platforms are impossible or not cost effective.

While the London Array involves fixed platforms, it is the industry capacity and expertise to build large scale farms at sea that we need. Then we couple it with the emerging floating platform technology, and New Zealand is golden.

Hydro and geothermal are the perfect partners for load matching with large scale wind, with a bit of gas for winter and summer peaking plant.

16 Comments Posted

  1. jarbury – while I agree with everything you said, the natural complement to tidal power is demand management. There are a number of applications that need electricity during the day (and night) but not necessarily continuously. They might include:
    – pumping water, e.g. irrigation
    – freezers;
    – some heating;
    If these uses can be aligned with when the tidal power output is high, then no other storage is needed and the power is used efficiently.


  2. Geothermal and tidal power are renewable base-load generators. Whilst tidal power wouldn’t generate 24/7 it is completely predictable, which means you could use excess power generated when tidal flows are strongest to do something like pump hydro water uphill, and then when tidal flows are lower you compensate by letting that water drop.

  3. Owen McShane said: “Our winds are also highly “unstable” – ask any yachtie,…”

    And I think that if you ask those same yachties where the winds are most variable, they will tell you “around land”. The winds at sea away from coastal hills and mountains tend to be stronger and steadier than those on or near shore, so wind farms in these areas have more power and greater availability.

    However in New Zealand, we are fortunate to have high ridge lines near the coast which concentrate the wind vertically leading to higher winds than at sea, so our on-shore wind farms have more output and higher availability. More variability is a small price to pay for these benefits.


  4. Owen McShane said: “…You need to have gas fired turbines running on low gen standby at such times and this impacts heavily on the cost of the whole network. Geothermal does not have these problems but of course it is nuclear-fission powered.”

    What has “nuclear-fission powered” got to do with anything? Geothermal is regarded as a renewable natural resource.

    In the UK, they might need to have gas-fired turbines running and ready to pick up the demand if the wind drops. Here in New Zealand we have hydro. And if the existing hydro isn’t enough, we can build pumped hydro storage systems. And if that isn’t enough or you want storage closer to the point of use of to the point of generation, there is always a vanadium redox flow battery to even out the peaks of supply or demand.

    Geothermal is also an option to supplement hydro, but as I learned recently, much of New Zealand’s geothermal generation is unsuitable for being ramped up and down due to the nature of the geothermal resource itself. However at least some is suitable and has been used for this purpose.


  5. Why muck about with wind that stops & starts, when the waves beneath those expensive gadgets are moving all the time.
    Put more money into wave technology.

  6. Not yet probably because it is not being built.
    But it will if only because they won’t be charged for the backup – the hidden subsidy.

  7. -subsidies:
    Tax breaks continue for offshore energy explorers:

    Then theres the roads, coal mining concessions…, a figure I heard recently is that the EU spend 30 billion a year on various subsidies, much will be for fossil fuels, I will try get a break down at some stage to see if I can find out the porportion that goes to renewables vs fossil. 5 billion for clean energy – a drop in the bucket! And if you’re not investing in big infrastructure during a recession for a sustainable future, what a massive opportunity cost!

    New Zealand has the world’s first wind farm to be built without govt support – this is nothing to be proud off, and this is partly why we have so much opposition to wind.

    Renewables should be getting the majority of subsidies/incentives, unfortunately these goes to the status quo – as per the first link.

  8. From another source:

    Can Wind Power be a Reliable Long Term Source of British Power?

    by Ian Lausa 05/12/2009
    The wind of change is blowing, but for once, that change might be affecting the wind.

    Wind, often championed as a viable alternative-energy source in the United Kingdom, might not be as energy efficient as it was once thought to be. Independent reports of the wind-energy efforts in the UK “have consistently revealed an industry plagued by high construction and maintenance costs, highly volatile reliability and a voracious appetite for taxpayer subsidies.”

    The cost for the energy alternative is sizable. Over the course of fiscal year 2007-2008, UK electricity customers paid a total of over $1 billion to the owners of wind turbines. That number is only expected to rise by 2020 to $6 billion a year as the government builds a national infrastructure of 25 gigawatts of wind capacity.

    Currently, wind produces only 1.3 percent of the U.K.’s energy needs while a 2008 report from Cambridge Energy Research Associates warns that over-reliance on offshore wind farms would only further create supply problems and drive up investor costs.

    Additionally, the average load factor for wind turbines in the UK was about 27.4 percent, meaning a typical 2-megawatt turbine only produced 0.54 megawatt of power on average. Dismissing the fact that low wind days would produce even less, all figures seem to point to poor return on investment.

    Some have suggested the building of cheaper wind farms, but ultimately higher maintenance costs and spare gas turbines to replace broken ones would cancel out any perceived benefits, as gas for the turbines would only add to carbon dioxide emissions.

    At this point, the outlook for wind to be a major source of UK electricity seems grim. Much like the wind itself, the problem just might be uncontrollable.

  9. I like your name grouch-o.
    I guess there are far more moving parts perMW in a hydro dam then?

  10. No they’re not Shunda . Your profound ignorance an inability to contribute anything of worth to the frogblog is so annoying. Semi submersible technology has been operating all over the globe with deep sea drilling rigs and platforms for 25 years or more. The technology exists. It’s just that NZ having been run by visionless penny pinching neo liberal idealogues for so long has become a backwater technolgically speaking.

  11. The problem is that in NZ as in many places wind and hydro are not a perfect complement because we tend to get less wind during dry periods.

    Hence the wind hydro trade-off runs out once wind accounts for about 10% of load.

    Our winds are also highly “unstable” – ask any yachtie, I have seen the graphs of generation for one of our existing wind installations and its up and down like a yo yo so you increase the contribution you increase the instability of the whole system which has to match input to output very closely to avoid burn out or brown out. You need to have gas fired turbines running on low gen standby at such times and this impacts heavily on the cost of the whole network. Geothermal does not have these problems but of course it is nuclear-fission powered.

  12. Woah!

    When fully operational, it would make a substantial contribution to the UK Government’s target of providing 15.4% of all electricity supply from renewable sources by 2015. Based on the current schedule, it is expected that the project would represent nearly 7% of this target. It would also avoid the emission of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide over its life.

    Yes, what WILL they do when the wind’s not blowing? Apparently wind is a lot easier to predict than rain, so maybe they can fire up their fossil fuel plants in time…


    Whew, it’s a lot, even when you say it quickly! That’s about $1,200 for every man woman and child in NZ. And when there’s no wind it would just be there depreciating. I also dread to think of the annual maintenance cost!

    Let’s stick to doubling the capacity of Makara and get the same benefit for $300 each


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