44 Comments Posted

  1. To illustrate how biased the article in The Australian actually is, just consider the decision makers who opted to build the wind farms. These aren’t die-hard greenies. Instead they are utility managers whose jobs depend on making sensible decisions based on actual evidence. They chose to build the wind farms and since a number have been built or are under construction, presumably their bosses support their decisions based on their actual financial performance.

    The bottom line is that the utilities’ bottom lines show that the wind farms are cost effective. This can only be because they are saving money, which can only be because the wind farms are reducing the amount of fossil fuel or imported electricity required – which is the same thing given that NSW and Victoria also use fossil fueled generation – and therefore are also reducing CO2 emissions from fossil fuels.

    Therefore The Australian is simply misleading its readers by saying the opposite.


  2. Alwyn – with respect to your first post at 3:23 on 28 Dec above, the “information” that you have obtained from The Australian appears to be factually incorrect and deliberately misleading.

    South Australia has a lot of wind generation. (At one point, wind generated 85% of their actual power demand – on Monday 3 September, 2012). This generation is reducing CO2 emissions. South Australia is exporting electricity although imports still exceed exports in most years.

    The claim is that the gas-fired plants still need to keep running because of wind’s variability, which may be the case. However the amount of gas required to keep a gas fired plant ready to generate is a lot less than that required to actually generate the power, and the gas fired plant would have been needed to be fired up to meet the demand or the potential demand anyway, if the wind farms weren’t installed or weren’t generating.

    Wind energy costs are falling, and wind farms are still being built all around the world because wind energy is cost-effective. Because of this, those with money invested in fossil fuels are funding disinformation campaigns, spreading such ideas as you have found in The Australian.


  3. Alwyn – I googled it and you are right about hydrogen being used for sulphur removal. However hydrocracking takes hydrogen and reacts it with the heavier (longer) compounds so they break into lighter (shorter) compounds, essentially with the hydrogen atoms on the two cut ends. This is not blending the hydrogen into the mix. I have no idea exactly how much hydrogen is used for which process as the figures I saw (some time ago) were quoting CO2 emissions from the steam reformation process used to create the hydrogen.


  4. Trevor @ 11.07pm
    I’m sorry but I missed your answer about the Hydrogen.
    If I remember my Chemistry at all I don’t really think that they blend the hydrogen back into the hydrocarbon mix.
    The use of Hydrogen is, I think, to remove the sulphur from the feedstock, making Hydrogen sulphide in the process. There will certainly be excess carbon in the process of cracking but that is formed as carbon directly and is likely to then be burned in boilers at the refinery.

  5. dbuckley – yes I am aware of the transmission constraints North of Hayward. However the large wind farms near Wellington are South of these constraints.

    Rather than extend the 400kV AC link further South, I would suggest running a new HVDC link further North and setting up a second converter station perhaps at Whakamaru. If we are to wean the North Island off its >3GW of thermal power generation, we will need to use more of the South Island’s hydro resources to meet peak demand with sufficient diversification to handle contingencies, and the existing lines on one set of towers may be at their practical limit.


  6. “Who do you suggest we believe?”

    Well I suggest that you take anything Andrew Bolt writes with a large dose of skepticism. “…without producing a drop of water” after the plant has been tested at full output? “…after warming preachers claimed the rains would not return”? I know of no one claiming that “the rains would not return”, but droughts are more likely under AGW. His bias is obvious.

    The Australian is also biased, but the article is approximately correct. Note that they have just had some “heavy rains” following a long drought. This suggests to me that the recent rainfall has been unusual, and not typical of what to expect, so I wouldn’t suggest basing long term strategic planning on the expectation of enough heavy rain to keep a city supplied with water.


  7. Trevor59 @ 11.56pm
    I refer you to the following stories
    and another
    Who do you suggest we believe?
    The last time I spoke to some Melbourne friends they were complaining about the cost of the plant that they said wasn’t being used.

  8. It is not policy to oppose transmission line upgrades. It is a case by case decision.

    Moreover, I would reckon that the party made an error here in the way that was presented. Auckland faces issues related to power in its further growth. It is a limit that Auckland has hit and will repeatedly hit and proposing that the city should more than double in population is just a bit mad. It probably will, but there is nothing there that can absorb the stress; Not power, not water systems, not housing. In short, Auckland is bumping up against ALL the growth stops, and some growth needs to be shifted to other places. Simply promoting an alternative to adding transmission lines and not explaining why the long term answer is to NOT encourage Auckland to grow more and faster leaves people free to draw erroneous conclusions.

    More importantly, that specific instance is NOT the same issue as building an improvement to the grid that makes the wind power more easily backed up or storable. You should not draw such a general conclusion from the unrelated project.

    Which begs the question of how to get people to go anywhere else in this country, and that means making industry/manufacturing happen somewhere else. Auckland is pretty much the only place where tech jobs are right now.

    Christchurch used be but had an accident at the intersection of unreinforced-masonry lane and seismic-shock boulevard. Then the government ambulance ran over them. Getting people to think of it as a place rather than a disaster area… will be a while more. It’s actually a nice place…

    Wellington has some gummint IT work but not much else, is constrained by land even more than Auckland and is subject to earthquake risk. I’d live there by choice, but there’s not much work for me.

    Hamilton is another “suburb in search of a city”, doomed to remain so unless it wises up. A culture built around racing and football, supported by farming? An intellectual wasteland.

    The transit hubs need to be better done. Hamilton needs an international airport? No, it NEEDS a high speed rail link to the Auckland Airport ( say a sub-30 minute trip time ) – linking to the Auckland transit system (which had better reach the f**king airport).

    NZ could be quite a neat and civilized place to live. That it isn’t has a lot more to do with vision impairment than physical limitations.

  9. BJ:

    You canโ€™t accuse Greens of opposing upgrades to the national grid

    No? Were the Greens really against the North island Grid Update?


    The HVDC link is being upgraded to 1400MW in either direction…

    Yes it is being upgraded, but it can’t do anything like 1.4GW south, transmission constraints in the NI put the absolute limit at something less that 1GW, with numbers like 700MW being more realistic capabilities.

    Perhaps when the NI 400KV upgrade gets extended from Whakamaru down to Haywards then the HVDC could run at the full monty load south. Of course, that puts the first contingent event in the SI at 700MW, and thats a big lump to lose…

  10. Alwyn – I am not sure where you are getting your information from but a Google search turned up a link for the Bass Coast Victorian Desalination Plant which was being commissioned:
    (Note that this page was dated 16 October, 2012.)
    and which is now operational:
    (dated 8 December, 2012)

    Some desalination plants are being put into standby now that they have had heavy rain for a while, but these will be started up when the next drought strikes.


  11. Alwyn said:
    To get the wind power where it would be used would therefore require a very large expansion of the National Grid, which is also opposed at every opportunity.

    It is unlikely to require ANY expansion of the National Grid. Power from North Island wind farms would only be sent South during periods of lower electricity demand in the North Island. The HVDC link is being upgraded to 1400MW in either direction, and the peak capacity is likely to be needed to meet the North Island’s peak winter demand. Power from South Island wind farms being sent North replaces power from the South Island hydro generation.

    The rest of the grid is sized to meet peak power demands (with n-1 reliability) and in general has enough capacity to handle transferring wind power to storage systems which is only necessary during off-peak times.

    There may be some transmission line upgrades to connect the wind farms to the National Grid or to cope with the extra power from the wind farms, but these upgrades are not necessary to allow pumped hydro storage options to be used.


  12. Alwyn asked:
    What on earth is the refinery doing producing hydrogen for? I canโ€™t think of any reason for them producing large quantities of the gas.

    The simple answer is “cracking”. The New Zealand refinery can use lower cost heavy crude oils because it can crack them and produce lighter petroleum products. Since the lighter products have a higher hydrogen to carbon ratio, this requires additional hydrogen. Currently they manufacture the hydrogen on site using steam reformation of natural gas. I see no reason why some of their hydrogen needs couldn’t be met by using electrolysis during periods when renewable electricity supply exceeds demand.


  13. Alwyn – I figured it was something like that. The Australian is a Murdoch enterprise. He wants the money to roll in. The real purpose of having a newspaper is lost on him… the profit motive is all that is left.

    Democracy depends on an informed and educated electorate, and that is as important to the right as to the left. The news media have been captured, more and more, by the corporates. They are turning out infotainment not information as a rule. In a way it is a GOOD thing because apart from the coal plants of South Australia, there are few places that the wind is not backed up by some OTHER sources. The disinformation is contained. ๐Ÿ™‚

    However, there is not a problem with water storage being distant from the wind farm… the transmission losses are not likely to be that large. Larger than zero, but not large enough for it not to work. Hydrogen is a chemical storage option suitable for use in a variety of storage and generation schemes. It can be converted to methane which is actually better for storage.

    You can’t accuse Greens of opposing upgrades to the national grid. We aren’t against everything the way we have been painted so often by the wingnuts.

    When Australia recognizes the water problems are also energy problems and gets cracking on some big solar collectors it’ll reactivate those. Yup, cost ’em some. When they have to bring ’em back on line and don’t have to build ’em from scratch they’ll bless the foresight that got ’em built.

  14. A few responses

    Trevor29 @ 10.29pm
    What on earth is the refinery doing producing hydrogen for? I can’t think of any reason for them producing large quantities of the gas.
    You suggest that we could use excess wind generated electricity to pump water uphill at the Hydro stations. A major problem with that is that, in general, the wind farms are nowhere near the hydro stations. For example there were, in 2011 about 7,511 GWh of hydro power generated in the North Island and 17,319 GWh in the SI. Wind power was 1,671 GWh in the NI and 260 GWh in the SI. The Hydro power in the NI is mainly on the Tongariro and Waikato but I think most of the windpower is south of the Manawatu gorge. There is essentially no wind power in the SI, and with the nimby attitude there there never will be. To get the wind power where it would be used would therefore require a very large expansion of the National Grid, which is also opposed at every opportunity.

    Bjchip @ 3.22am.
    Damn. When I read that article, and made a note of the reference, it was freely available. Now it is behind the paywall. Basically the study found that, because of the erratic nature of windpower generation, the boilers at the coal fired plants in the LaTrobe valley had to keep running all the time.

    Trevor29 @ 12.07pm.
    I don’t think I would talk about desalination to taxpayers and water users in SA at the moment, or in Queensland, NSW or Victoria either. There were five very expensive desalination plants built. In Australian dollars and in billions they cost roughly $2.2b (SA) $1.2b (Qld), $6.1b (Vic), $2b (NSW) and about $2b (WA). All of them except the WA one have been mothballed!

  15. dbuckley has a good point about managing demand.

    One down, just a few billion to go ๐Ÿ™‚

    …and therefore the pumps can be switched off for short periods if the electricity supply drops suddenly, reducing the need to have spinning reserve.

    Most big pumps are driven through VSDs (variable speed drives) and therefore just reducing the speed a bit if done widely enough will reduce demand signficantly.

    Given the VSD is just a bag of electronics anyway, makeing VSDs adjust output down when input frequency drops a bit is all that is needed. Do it at VSD manufacture and it is a zero cost implementation (just software in the VSD) with real world benefits.

    All its takes are the right financial incentives from the utilties…

  16. dbuckley has a good point about managing demand. I expect that South Australia uses a significant amount of electricity for pumping water, both to move it and for desalination. (I haven’t checked the latter, but if they don’t now, I expect that they will soon.) Pumping water is not time critical in most cases, and therefore the pumps can be switched off for short periods if the electricity supply drops suddenly, reducing the need to have spinning reserve.

    Air conditioning is another load that can be interrupted for short periods, particularly if it is being used for cooling and can store the cold in the form of ice.

    Hot water heating is another obvious option for using the output of intermittent generation.

    The bottom line is that in South Australia, they have stuck with a traditional solution to a new problem which works, but not at all well. There are better solutions but most need to be applied outside the narrow world of an electricity supply utility.


  17. Trevor29 and bjchip.
    Why on earth are we using wind turbines anyway?
    There is absolutely no use in them as their net effect on carbon emissions is to increase them.

    Lets see here. “The Australian” has a paywall and while I believe the article says whatever you say it said, I don’t know what sort of data it had to back that up. New Zealand has a higher capacity factor than anyplace I can think of in Oz… This country is in the roaring 40’s and the West Coast of the South Island, and the Cook Strait have some extraordinary potential.

    …and then there is the notorious bias of the newspaper..


    … which is strangely much the same as the bias of some of Murdoch’s other papers…


    his explanation might look like this


    However that may be, the problem for Australia is not only their lower availability of wind but also that their “backup” generation is from coal, not hydro. We are in a MUCH better place to utilize wind, keep water in lakes as reserves and make a lot of renewable energy on the cheap. We might even fly kite based turbines (as I linked once).

    We aren’t doing things we should be doing, and we aren’t supporting our local industries, and we aren’t going to be thanked by our kids for the failure. They’ll be in Australia if they are smart anyway. Who the hell wants to work a farm for someone else after getting a degree in electrical engineering?

  18. Google for wind reserve.

    Had a longer answer with some links but the iPad doom machine refreshed the page and it vanished. The paper from nrel.gov (third hit) is freely available and on quick examination, appears relevant, and in particular, addresses the speed of response issue that is a pain if there isn’t demand management.

  19. Australia is not without options for making better use of intermittent renewables.

    One option is to add utility-scale storage batteries such as vanadium redox flow batteries to the wind farms to help smooth out the supply and in particular to buy some time between the wind output falling and the thermal power stations having to ramp up their output, so the thermal stations don’t have to be ready to run at full output immediately.

    Another option is to add solar thermal power to their mix. This concentrates the sun’s heat during the day heating a thermal reservoir. When more power is needed, this heat can then be used in a conventional thermal power cycle. I expect that the solar thermal power stations can come on line fairly quickly as they don’t have to heat up large boilers.

    Another traditional answer is to tie large areas together to even out fluctuations in supply and demand.


    PS: Can you provide a link to an article that isn’t behind a paywall please?

  20. Alwyn – the simple answer to your question is that we are not Australia. They have limited hydro generation where as our generation is dominated by hydro. We can absorb the variations in wind generation output quite easily by varying the hydro.

    If we build so much wind generation that we can’t use all the power, then we have options including adding pumps or reversible turbines to some of our hydro plants to use the excess power to pump water back up. We can also add electrolysis units to manufacture hydrogen for the sites that need it such as the oil refinery and ammonia-urea plant, both of which are currently manufacturing their hydrogen from steam reformation of natural gas.

    Also our wind resource tends to be better than Australia’s.


  21. Dear Alwyn

    The Australian study is correct, sort of, but what it actually illustrates is not the unsuitability of interruptible generation like wind, but rather the intransigence (and frankly, stupidly) of people involved in electricity supply.

    The issues are not with supply; to misquote Julie Ann, it’s about demand, stupid.

    I’ve been banging the drum ineffectually for several years now, but a bunch in the UK are now telling the same story, see Dynamic Demand.

    Given New Zealand is a little country, we could pioneer this stuff and sell the IP to the world. But we won’t.

  22. Trevor29 and bjchip.
    Why on earth are we using wind turbines anyway?
    There is absolutely no use in them as their net effect on carbon emissions is to increase them.
    I refer you to a study done in Australia that was reported in The Australian a couple of months ago.
    The wind turbines introduced at great trouble and expense in Victoria produced power so erratically that the coal filed station boilers had to keep running even if the generators weren’t producing any power.
    I refer you to http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/hopes-of-slashing-greenhouse-emissions-just-blowing-in-the-wind/story-fn59niix-1226462745494

  23. As for why I didn’t explain it all in my writing, would that have been as well written? I decided to ask the question as I did… it isn’t perfectly accurate because I knew the answer, as you did… and my response to that answer was thought through beforehand too.

    I liked the way the words went together. Would not spoil that by being too precise.

    “A little inaccuracy sometimes saves tons of explanation.” – Saki

  24. Trevor – I know about the size issues. Yet if we have a Wind Turbine manufacturer and we do not GROW its capacity but instead invest in other people’s stuff, we are probably making a mistake.

    The question is not whether the product from Vesta is “the best”, but whether Windflow can make something here that is close at a price we can bear. Not whether it already does… whether it CAN.

    It is similar to the railcars from South Korea or from China.

    It is similar to far too many things. The foreign made importer has the advantage of scale and volume. The Kiwi manufacturer needs more support from this government and isn’t getting it because that’s messing with the “free market” which is religiously regarded here and is failing and is killing our economy… because that is ALSO what the invisible hand does. It also kills.

  25. Wonder if this well known greenie and supporter of conservation off waterways, had resource consent to block a stream, causing all sorts of unquantified enironmental damage.


    Or is it more a case of do as I say, not do as I do.

    Hopefully no native snails were drowned as the lake built behind the weir. Possibly there will be an environmental disaster as the population of greenflies reaches epidimic proportions ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

    Mind you instead of wind power, the blocked stream should be able to run a water wheel and power the houshold of native greenflies.

  26. BJ – we imported Vesta wind turbines because the locally produced wind turbines were simply too small. Bigger turbines extract more energy from a given wind pattern because they reach higher, where the wind is faster and less turbulent, and there are other economies achieved by having a few large turbines rather than a larger number of smaller turbines. The Windflow turbines are more suitable for smaller installations that integrate into the local distribution system rather than directly into the national grid, but of course the NACTS aren’t encouraging the development of such installations. (Such installations would earn carbon credits but the NACTs efforts have seen the value of carbon credits in New Zealand plummet.)


  27. From another place…

    When TV was finally introduced into NZ there was no domestic industry which could produce them. The simply brilliant answer was to set up an assembly plant in iirc Waihi which employed locals. The next simply brilliant move was to go to the Japanese manufacturers, Sanyo I think, and ask them to supply the parts which would then be assembled into TV’s in New Zealand. But, said Sanyo, we would have to employ people to stand on the production lines and pull items off and package them up to sent to NZ. It will be very expensive and we can supply fully made up TV’s much cheaper. Yes, said our brave politicians but that would not create jobs in NZ would it ?? – and so, that was how the NZ economy was run and car plants like Toyota were set up. It was a disaster and ran NZ into the ground.

    The wrong lesson.

    Vertically integrated production is vastly different from one where we assemble cars or televisions from parts that come from overseas.

    F&P manufactured successfully for years before the rising dollar, the lack of support and the cheap foreign stuff finally got them taken over.

    Furniture could easily be made in NZ instead of us shipping out raw tree trunks and importing lounge suites.

    Buying parts by and having a few people employed putting them back together is not an “industry”.

    Ricardo didn’t make the error every single New Zealander I have ever met has made… you CANNOT run the economy based on JUST doing the things you have an advantage doing!

    When every tech qualified graduate from Uni LEAVES THE COUNTRY because there isn’t anything for him to do here, and certainly nothing that will pay off his student loan, when every niche engineering firm that still exports anything is on-the-ropes because the high dollar is killing them.. and they haven’t been able to give staff a raise in years… but the price of houses is rising faster than inflation which is NOT zero. When we lose the likes of F&P and Endace. When the Rail engineering at Dunedin closes down for good, because government buys from overseas due to it being cheaper…

    The purpose of having industry in NZ is not to export to the rest of the world but to reduce our IMPORTS from the rest of the world.

    Why, when we have our own Wind Turbine manufacturer, do we import Vesta hardware? Why when we had the ability to build Railcars did we import them from China? Why do we still import furniture? Why did we allow the “free market” to force F&P to shut its manufacturing here?

    Of course you have to do what you are good at… the problem is that the way things are being run that is the ONLY only thing that is being done and THAT IS WRONG!!!!

    This IS an Island. It IS too far from other places and markets to have much effective “comparative advantage” outside of agriculture.

    It is NOT as energy independent as it ought to be… because it needs to import an awful lot of fuel for cars and planes and tractors.

    …and there is a limit to how much more agriculture it can stand… no matter what the price of the commodities we sell reaches, there is a limit to how much we can sustainably produce. We can’t afford to import everything else and pay for it in Milk,Logs and Sheep…

    NZ has to do more to support its OTHER industries, and it has to stop equating government support for a local industry with some really stupid make-work jobs from long ago. It has to remember that Ricardo didn’t advocate that England not produce Wine, nor Portugal not produce cloth.


    The current policy doesn’t cut it.

    This country is losing ownership of itself. It is losing its best and brightest students. It is losing any employment at all outside of agriculture, real-estate and service. We sell each other houses and hamburgers and call it a success while the unemployment hits 15% and more for some segments of the society and more than half the rivers are no longer fit to swim in.. and because it cannot afford what it is buying, its foreign debt is getting larger and larger and larger, even while its unemployment climbs.

    We’re doing all right if the goal is to become tenant farmers in a land that used to belong to us.

    We could be doing a lot better.

  28. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/technology/news/article.cfm?c_id=5objectid=10855923


    There’s one resource that isn’t in short supply around the world: urine. Three teenage girls in Africa developed a generator that produces 6 hours of power for every litre of urine fed into it. Most people produce a couple of litres of urine per day. The device uses an electrolytic cell to extract hydrogen from the urine. The hydrogen is then purified with a typical water filter and fed into a cylinder of liquid borax to remove excess humidity. From there the purified hydrogen can power a generator to produce 6 hours of electricity. Couldn’t that revolutionise city or even household sewage systems! I wonder what the waste products are.””

  29. By which time people who advocate burning more fossil fuels will probably be used AS fuel.

    The gormless tend to get religion much more easily than they get science.

  30. In the West Antarctic it isn’t the melt from the top that is troubling, it is the possibility that the Ice can become mobile from the bottom… no?

  31. http://localbodies-bsprout.blogspot.co.nz/2012/12/fair-trade-not-free-trade.html

    “”Australia may have gained from their agreement with us but in their FTA with the US they also appear to be disadvantaged as the smaller economy. The US saw their exports to Australia almost double by 2010 while Australia has seen a decline and now their exports to the US only make up only 41% of the value they import.

    While our exports to China have more than doubled in from 2005-10 there is still a $2 billion imbalance. We have also suffered from our relationship with their dairy industry and the melamine scandal and are about to lose ownership of Fisher Paykel to the Chinese whiteware giant, Haier. Fisher and Paykel have already outsourced their manufacturing to Mexico (at the cost of 1000 jobs) and now their highly innovative technologists and engineers will probably leave our shores too.

    There are currently huge concerns regarding the secret negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement. New Zealand is again one of the smaller economies in the partnership and already there are indications that we may soften Pharmac’s control over pharmaceutical imports to benefit US drug companies and the potential to be sued by international corporations who do not get their way.

    While free trade may allow a greater flow of goods and services between countries and mean a loosening of controls and tariffs, it is pretty clear that it also tends to favour the more powerful economy. When the US negotiates trade agreements they are largely advocating for their powerful corporates and while New Zealand is one of the most open economies in the world, the US still protects its own industries well and agriculture in particular.

    Perhaps it is about time we realised that we will never be able to match the worlds largest economies in bargaining power and the might of their corporates. Rather than “free” trade we should be negotiating for “fair” trade.””

  32. If Australia is in a currency war armed with a popgun….


    …what are WE armed with?

    It is clear to me that the conventional wisdom of the Reserve Bank governor and the ruling party is inadequate to this task. Yet WE have been on the receiving end of this punishment for far longer. What are we being punished for? you might ask.

    We are being punished for being fools and believing free-market fairy tails from the fantasy land of neo-liberal economics.

    Wake up Neo – we can use anything we can IMAGINE. We are not limited to the rules of the banker’s matrix.

  33. Actually you are wrong. The world ended in 1984. We are cocooned in an alien spaceship being fed virtual reality tapes.

    I just wish my virtual reality included a lot more sailing and a lot less work.

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