Jobs and economic development blowing in the wind.

New Zealand has been described as the ‘Saudi Arabia of wind’ and I’m optimistic it will play a bigger role in our electricity generating mix.

Yesterday the New Zealand Wind Energy Association released a BERL report Economic Benefits of Wind Farms in New Zealand, that shows there will be considerable growth in employment in New Zealand’s wind industry over the coming years.

Their target is 20% of New Zealand’s generation coming from wind power by 2030 which could see 3500 MW of generation, resulting in 1460 direct and indirect jobs and a contribution to national GDP of $156 million.

The reports notes there would be a number of associated benefits from exports of expertise, research and development growth along with increased skills and training, tourism and regional economic development.  However I think they missed one – adding to our valuable clean, green brand. Look at Wellington, the city on the whole is powered from the Makara wind farm, and its electric trolley buses could be said to be powered by the wind. We could get close to 100% renewable electricity generation with a little leadership from the Government and support and this would be a considerable marketing advantage.

However I don’t consider wind is operating on a level playing field. The Government is doing all they can to promote extractive industries with their ‘drill it, mine it, frack it’ approach to economic development: offering subsidies, numerous tax credits and a very low royalty regime. Along with the considerable environmental risk from deep-sea drilling and fracking these tarnish our valuable clean, green brand.

I know which path I prefer. I mean have you ever heard of a catastrophic ‘wind spill’?

28 Comments Posted

  1. Photonz1 – I think that you have the wrong idea about wind power. It is not a reliable source of electricity. Instead it is a low cost alternative electricity supply which saves fuel, without having to dam another river. What counts is the cost per unit of electricity – cents per kiloWattHour or dollars per MegaWatthour – the units of fuel cost. Right now, we have over 3GW of fossil-fuelled generation plant in the North Island providing much of that island’s electricity needs. Almost any generation from wind (or solar or tidal or wave) will reduce the fossil fuel cost and reduce CO2 emissions.


  2. Photonz – I am not sure what you actually expect. A repeal of the laws of Thermodynamics? There is no, and for good reason NEVER WILL BE, perfectly efficient means of storing energy. The best motors, pumps and generators push 90+ percent, which means that the real world efficiency of any pumped storage is going to be no better than 90%. Trevor is exactly right, and you can easily look it up on WIKI.

    Your claims.

    – much dearer that any other generation for the amount of power produced
    – can only be used on rare occasions
    – ONLY works – that’s ONLY WORKS – with a system that has a large amount
    of wastage and inefficiency.

    1. It isn’t power generation it is power storage. Given that it is STORAGE you have to compare the cost with STORAGE schemes. Price the batteries then…

    2. No. Nor is it clear why you would say so. Most are quite capable of being used daily.

    3. No again, and again not clear why you would say so.


  3. Photonz1 – pumped storage is inefficient. Its efficiency is around 85% – similar to sending North Island power south at times of low demand and then sending South Island power north again at times of high demand so that South Island hydro can be used to buffer North Island supply and demand. The fact that pumped hydro is less than 100% efficient does not stop it being used at a number of sites around the world, so why shouldn’t it be used here. It would be cheaper here than some sites if we can make use of existing dams and existing transmission lines and transformers.

    However the efficiency doesn’t matter much if the aim is to use power that would otherwise be lost. Wind and solar generation that isn’t used at the time of generation is lost unless it can be stored, and pumped hydro is one of the cheapest, most efficient storage techniques available for utility-scale power storage. (For another contender, google “gravel battery”.)

    Of course storing energy in the form that it will be needed is likely to be cheaper still, hence the use of ice for storing cold for air conditioning systems and similar techniques.


  4. Up-to-date photovoltaic cells on roofs – feed into grid, reduce power bills and add another source of renewable energy to the mix.

  5. photonz1 – Pumped generation isn’t claimed to be efficient on its own, only as part of a wider system. Its purpose is to increase peak capacity by taking advantage of otherwise-unused capacity during periods where supply exceeds demand. To evaluate its ‘efficiency’ you need to not only consider its net energy production (which may well be negative), but also the costs of the alternatives that would otherwise be required to meet peak loads.

  6. BJ says “Again with the fallacy. … Maybe we take the day off when the wind doesn’t blow”

    Maniototo, where NZs largest wind far was proposed by Meridian, often has a two week hoar frost in the winter.

    In other words, when the temperature doesn’t rise above zero for two weeks in Central Otago, there isn’t a breath of wind (if there is wind you don’t get a hoar frost, so you don’t need as much power).

    Trevor – you keep promoting pumped generation. If this is as good as you say, please give me a link to a site – even just ONE site – somewhere on the planet where it is working efficiently.

    That’s just a single site, anywhere on the planet

    (I’d actually be very happy if you could prove me wrong that pumped generation is totally inefficient)

  7. Ah Kerry – if that were all that would be required… shows the current state of the electricity market. Earlier today, the peak was a bit under 6GW, with about 2GW required in the South Island and a bit under 4GW required in the North Island. There is less than 2GW of North Island hydro supplemented with about 700MW of geothermal. Add 700MW of HVDC link and the North Island is still not close to meeting its peak demand without either wind or fossil fuels.

    Biomass can close this gap a bit – particularly if Huntly started burning wood or charcoal. However the North Island needs either additional storage or additional reliable renewable power if the goal of 100% renewables is to be achieved. (The other measure that would help is more HVDC link capacity, and this is in the process of being upgraded to 1400MW.)

    Since there seems little chance of new reliable hydro power being added to the North Island, my preference would be to see additional geothermal power added. However reducing the demand peaks would also help.


  8. Come-on.

    All we do is much like we do now. Now we use hydro and add fossil fuel power when the lakes are too low or demand exceeds hydro capability.

    Use wind when available and hydro when it is not. The wind power enables us to save hydro storage for when we need it. Not much of a stretch.

  9. BJ – the “Now” generation would regard your ideas as a reduction in their standard of living, and once people have had a taste of a higher standard of living, it is very hard to convince them to accept a lower standard.

    Fortunately there are technical solutions. If the price difference between peak and off peak periods is large enough and intelligent, communicative metering systems are employed, it is feasible for a number of electricity users to change their behaviour to make use of the cheaper off-peak power. Aluminium smelters usually run on off peak power. Water pumping might be suitable. Commercial coolers and air conditioning systems can freeze water during off peak periods and use the melting water for cooling rather than electricity during peak electricity demand periods (or times of low electricity demand). Heating can also be performed at off peak times and the heat released during peak times.

    There is no reason why New Zealand can’t aim for 100% renewable electricity generation. Sooner or later we won’t have a choice anyway.


  10. photonz1 said “there has to be a large minimum flow through all the dams on the Clutha, Makenzie and Waitaki systems as minimum required flows of the rivers is quite large”

    Are you sure that applies to all of the dams? I was passing the Waitaki river recently and it looked to me as if the outlets of the Benmore station were in the headwaters of Lake Aviemore and the outlets of the Aviemore station were in the headwaters of Lake Waitaki, which would mean that although the Waitaki station would have a minimum flow, both Benmore and Aviemore could drop their output to zero or even negative (pumping water up from the lower lake to the upper lake). Of course this could only be done for a short period of time, such as the middle of the night when electricity demand is low. I admit I haven’t researched this sufficiently to determine whether this is feasible or how much benefit might be obtained.

    Many of the upper Waitaki system stations operate on canals and may also be able to drop their output to zero and may be suitable for modification to allow the water to be pumped up also.

    And pumped storage systems can be developed at the same time as additional intermittent renewables – you don’t need to have the waste first.

    Perhaps you don’t know what I was referring to when I mentioned the Onslow idea:
    details a 1GW, 10,200 GWH pumped storage system using water from the Clyde river and storing it in the Onslow Manorburn basin. This would more than triple our current electricity hydro storage.


  11. Whatever new demand you expect to fill with wind power, you need to duplicate that generation for the times when the wind doesn’t blow.

    Again with the fallacy. … Maybe we take the day off when the wind doesn’t blow… maybe we schedule our work to the rhythm of the tides. It is only the way we’ve lived for most of human history. SOME things have to be done in a “demand driven” sort of way, but a lot more things in our society can be managed more flexibly.

  12. Kerry says “Saving on storage for when required”

    A lot of the time it make no difference because there has to be a large minimum flow through all the dams on the Clutha, Makenzie and Waitaki systems as minimum required flows of the rivers is quite large (so the water has to flwo though anyway instead of filling the lakes).

    In addition to that, over the months of the years when the dams are already full you can’t build up extra storage.

    Wind and solar do work well together, but only with a large amount of duplication.

    Whatever new demand you expect to fill with wind power, you need to duplicate that generation for the times when the wind doesn’t blow.

  13. Trevor,

    Your pumped hydro system is likely to be a non-starter because it is
    – much dearer that any other generation for the amount of power produced
    – can only be used on rare occasions
    – ONLY works – that’s ONLY WORKS – with a system that has a large amount of wastage and inefficiency.

    It’s an interesting idea, until you work out the practicalities.

  14. Hydro and wind/tide are an excellent mix.

    Hydro can be bought on line only when needed. In seconds actually.
    Seen it done from a laptop on the beach. Saving on storage for when required.

    We are fortunate in that New Zealand can be totally sustainable, in electricity for the grid and transport such as rail, easily, compared with most other countries.

  15. Photonz1 – I accept that the Mahinerangi hydro lake/wind farm double works very well for Trustpower, allowing them to share a common transmission line. However the wind farm expansion will take its peak output up to twice the peak output of the hydro system, so it will be exporting power to other areas.

    I also accept that there are a number of hydro schemes with little or no storage which would not be very effective as buffers for intermittent renewables. However New Zealand has over 4000GW of hydro storage and we can build more if we need it. If the output of the intermittent renewables (wind, wave, solar, run-of-river hydro, tidal) and the use-it-or-lose-it geothermal plants exceeds the demand, then we can add pumped storage capability to existing or new hydro systems, or increase the geothermal plant so it can operate at a wider range of output levels (load following rather than just constant output.


  16. Oops – my comment of 11:52pm should have read:
    “Had it proceeded, the energy from Project Hayes would have displaced generation from the Waitaki river or the North Island thermal plants.”


  17. More misleading comments photonz1. It doesn’t matter where the wind turbines are with respect to the hydro plant. Both supply power to a load site, so adequate power lines are needed between the generators and the load, not between generators. With the HVDC link, South Island hydro can buffer North Island wind generation.

    The Waitaki lakes are big enough to buffer wind output over days or weeks. They aren’t really enough to buffer supply versus demand over a year, which is one reason the Onslow pumped storage scheme was suggested. However using surplus summer generation to generate hydrogen for fertiliser manufacture has an equivalent effect.


  18. Trevor says “And if too much energy is being spilled”

    When the dams are near full, it will get spilled.

    And when they are low or medium,, it still has to go through anyway, as there are legal minimum river flows (environmental groups lobby to make these as large as possible).

    Wind and hydro can work well together, but only to a certain extent, and not at all times (i.e. Lake Mahinerangi works well because
    1/ the wind farm is very close to the lake.
    2/ can use the same lines without having to build new ones
    3/ the capacity of the lake is very very large compared to the flow and generation.

    So effectively the lake can be used like a giant battery that is topped up when the wind blows, and will last a very long time. Whereas most of the other lakes have a much shorter duration of storage without decent inflows. They act as a much smaller battery that has a major and continuous leak, and can only hold power for a much shorter time.

    Either way, when you build wind, you need to duplicate the generation for times when the wind doesn’t blow.

  19. Very misleading photonz1. Contact withdrew their opposition to Project Hayes when it was accepted that the transmission lines north would be upgraded if Project Hayes proceeded. These lines were the bottleneck. Had it proceeded, the energy from Project Hayes would have displaced generation from the Waitaki river or the North island geothermal plants.

    And the hydro generation has already been built.

    And if too much energy is being spilled, we can construct the Onslow basin pumped hydro storage scheme, which could absorb 1GW of excess electricity.

    20% is a small part, but very useful anyway. It supplements the geothermal and hydro very nicely.


  20. Trevor says “Therefore we can use wind generation to conserve the water in these storage lakes for use at times of low wind or peak demand.”

    You prove my point. Wind power has to be duplicated. It replaces generation that would otherwise be used.

    BJ says “The first batch of generation would simply be keeping the hydro lakes full anyway… ”

    Again proving the point that wind in part REPLACES generation we were already using.

    That was one of the big complaints with the Project Hayes scheme. As wind power takes precedence over hydro entering the national grid, Meridian were not only going to replace the energy Contact was putting into the grid – they were going to force Contract to spill the water from their dams for a significant part of the year meaning everything the dams cold have produced would be wasted.

    Wind has a small part to play, but it can only ever be small, because it always need to be duplicated for times when then wind doesn’t blow.

  21. photonz1 – hydro stations with storage usually have a much higher peak generation capacity than the average water flow can support – and New Zealand is blessed with plenty of hydro stations with storage. Therefore we can use wind generation to conserve the water in these storage lakes for use at times of low wind or peak demand.

    Wind power can also be used for non-critical applications such as pumping water for irrigation or even generation of hydrogen by electrolysis. As I have noted previously, New Zealand currently has two sites where hydrogen is manufactured on an industrial scale – the oil refinery and the ammonia-urea plant – both using natural gas as the feedstock. Hydrogen generated from wind at either or both sites would allow this natural gas to be conserved.


  22. No Photonz, you don’t. You only need that if you think you have to have power on demand 24/7 for whatever you fancy using it for instead of using it when it is available. We have to work smarter, not so absurdly and insanely demanding of our environment. You want demand based generation, without ever considering availability based supply. The first batch of generation would simply be keeping the hydro lakes full anyway…


  23. I admit that I have never heard of a catastrophic ‘wind spill’, but I know wind power experts consider loss of blade accidents and a spinning blade can travel a long distance if the conditions are just right – or just wrong if it is heading your way 🙁


  24. The problem with wind power is if you rely on it, you are absolutely stuffed whenever the wind doesn’t blow.

    If you want 20% of our generatation capacity from wind, then you need another ADDITIONAL SPARE 20% that sits in wait for those times the wind doesn’t blow.

    By the time you consider and pay for the generation for times when the wind doesn’t blow, wind power goes from being relatively efficient to very expensive.

  25. I think, just saying, that we need to do some additional work on restructuring our jobs market to center more industry on Invercargill, which is where some of the best resource in terms of energy is LOCAL, as opposed to Auckland where the geothermal heat might be useful… but there are limits to that extraction. Auckland is a net Energy importer, and most of NZ North of Hamilton is the same. Invercargill on the other hand, has a lot of energy blowing through it, a lot flowing down mountains near it… and a potential offshore source of current.

    Wellington has Cook Strait too, for that matter. Build on the hills though, as the water is going to rise.


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