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.”
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 The outdated perception of wind as expensive and unreliable remains in the minds of some people.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.