Wind Power In New Zealand: Has Its Time Come?

The New Zealand Wind Energy Association’s new analysis predicts the tiny nation of 4 million will go from a mere 5 percent of wind capacity now, to 20 percent by 2030.

“We live in a lucky country with an exceptional wind resource,” says Eric Pyle, the association’s chief executive. “Experienced developers are already seeing wind as the most cost-effective way of generating electricity and our ability to deliver lower cost energy is still improving.”

image via NZWEA

But as Pyle notes: “We do have challenges for the wind energy industry. The outdated perception of wind as expensive and unreliable remains in the minds of some people.  And as a consequence the benefits of wind generation for New Zealand tend to be underplayed.”

New Zealand gets 75-80 percent of its electricity from renewable energy currently, but that is mostly built upon a base established long ago in the 19th century, as pioneers set about tapping its abundant geothermal power and hydro-electricity.

So even though the already very green nation is mostly powered by clean energy, it lacks experience in the recent advances in wind (and solar) energy. There is less experience with building new clean energy technology, with only 622 megawatts (MW) of wind capacity installed in the tiny island nation to date—though New Zealand’s Meridian Energy did just install wind power in Antarctica, to add to that experience.

But NZWEA estimates that by 2016, wind generation will be clearly the most cost-effective form of new generation.  “The technology is continuing to improve,” says Eric Pyle. “Turbines are getting more reliable, operations and maintenance costs are reducing.  And the industry is getting better at developing wind farms.  Wind generation in New Zealand is already financially viable and it is going to get even better.”

“Once electricity demand starts to increase I am convinced that wind generation will be a high priority for all generators.”

To reach the 20 percent goal by 2030, New Zealand’s current 622 MW of wind would need to be expanded to 3,500 MW. (Its electricity needs are expected to expand as well so that it needs a total of 21 percent more total electricity generation by 2030.)

At that point, wind farms would take less than half a percent of its land, mostly by including turbines spaced out along the windy plains on traditional farm land.

Susan Kraemer enjoys writing to publicize the many great solutions for climate change that we can find if we just put our minds to it. She covers renewable policy and clean energy for CleanTechnica and GreenProphet and green building at HomeDesignFind. She recently moved home to Waiheke Island where her writing is now powered by the 80% renewable electricity that powers New Zealand.

    • Baydolphins2003n

      kiwis are always quietly a few steps ahead of the pack

    • Betsfeeney

      Check out a brand new book that shows the Gulf Oil Spill’s innocent victims being helped by wind energy. It’s called Hole in the Bottom of the Sea, based on a traditional song with all-new lyrics by Christine Lavin:

    • Rcullen

      I’m fine with huge banks of solar panels, the more the merrier, but this stuff is a desecration of nature and the bankruptcy of astheticism – not to mention a menace to migrating birds. People everywhere should organize against this and a good first objective would be stop governments from susidizing it with grant money.

    • Dennis

      Sounds like wind company propaganda. Wind is expensive, unreliable, inconsistent-and electricty cannot be stored. Why a land with hydro, and geothermal would desecrate its countryside with this scam is beyond me. Thus far industrial wind has not resulted in a single conventional power plant being closed-and Denmark which has the largest number per capita-electricity is the highest price in Europe.

      • Sarin

         Dear Dennis,
        Power from wind energy can be stored, cheaply and simply, just by configuring them into a national grid along with hydroelectric power stations. Power production from hydro electric stations are controlled by considering consumption and power from wind farms. thus water in dam can be conserved and just acts like a battery. European union is already doing it.

        • Susan Kraemer

          And many other ways, too. And Siemens is starting to build football-field sized hydrogen electrolylis factories they can put the excess night wind to work in at night, making hydrogen fuel to run cars on. We can adapt to the free, and climate friendly power that wind makes.

        • Susan Kraemer

          California also stores wind energy in pumped storage reservoirs of water, pumped uphill by wind power at night, released to run hydro turbines as needed.

      • Susan Kraemer

        Wind is cheaper than natural gas, in California already actually. The Power Purchase Contracts being signed with wind developers are selling at below MPR (the equivalent cost of nat gas) which varies from 7 to 12 cents a kwh.

      • Julian Gwangju

        Dear Dennis,
        1.) What Sarin said.2.) As stated in the article above, wealthy interests representing the fossil fuel industry in the US (ie. the Koch brothers and co.) are contributing to climate change by controlling the political process by investing heavily in disinformation and bribing politicians. Their propaganda is what you need to be looking at and commenting about.
        3.) If the motor industry was not in league with the fossil fuel industry in the US, then they would not have deliberately sunk their own great initiatives and strides towards making the second great generation of electrical cars (in the 1990s; the first generation was concurrent with or even preceded the first Ford production line vehicles). Batteries do exist which could already provide sources of storage for solar and wind energy local to the average family and individual. It’s a matter of a little more time before infrastructure is in place. I presume that is why fossil fuel industry representatives – such as yourself, I would guess – are so strident in providing an avant guard attack on developing technologies.

      •  Anyone can make up assertions.  Fossil fuel power causes cancer, ruins water supplies, and fouls the air. Unlike your assertions, these have been proven many times. Nuclear power is totally unacceptable. and also involves a high carbon footprint from mining, processing, transportation, decommissioning, and waste disposal. In countries where the industry is not allowed to hide it’s prices, the cost is 21 c/kwh, higher than renewables that have no public danger.

    • Mike

      I wish the rich in the US wouldnt get in the way of the US having new ways of power

      • Dennis

        They would lose their campaign donations from oil companies if they got out of the way

    • Brankica

      I don’t understand why
      would somebody be upset about this (specially if one is not N.Z. tax payer).
      I’m actually very excited. Somebody is TRYING something new, risky and exciting
      and you don’t have to fit the bill. They deserve at least a cheer!

    • Devitowhitesell6

      I would just like to refer readers to the following link, where there is much information about industrial wind in Australia, and also all over the world:

      • Susan Kraemer

        That is misinformation, Devil. There is no such thing as wind turbine syndrome. If you can bear the sound your refrigerator makes… that is how loud turbines are at half a mile away.

      • This nonsense has to be addressed every week. There is no medical basis to the hysteria some people create over the presence of wind turbines.
         Shadow Flicker Study Finds No Threat to Health | Special Supplement: Wind Technology Magazine Article

        There is “No Evidence” that Wind Turbine Syndrome Exists, Concludes Expert Panel | ThinkProgress

    • The price of electricity from wind is claimed to be higher than nat gas only because the environmental and health damages from gas are not paid for by the gas power industry. We are already paying more for fossil fuel energy than for renewable energy; the damages are pushed off onto taxpayers instead of attributed to the offenders.

    • ty

      It would be more useful, less harmful to the environment and less expensive if modern designs were used rather than scaled up ones from the 70s.