Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Trouble for Project Hayes

It looks like Meridian Energy's plans for Project Hayes - a massive 630 MW wind farm in Central Otago - have run into trouble, with a planning report for the Central Otago District Council panning its visual effect. I'm not entirely upset by this. I'm a supporter of wind power, but I also recognise that Central Otago is an outstanding natural landscape which would be significantly affected by this development. If the RMA process comes down on the side of protecting that natural beauty, then I'm not going to be too upset.

Meanwhile, is it too much to ask that energy companies actually try doing the environmentally easy projects first?


maybe you should start your own energy company

Posted by Anonymous : 4/11/2007 11:37:00 AM

Suggest some "environmentally easy" locations? Pretty much all of NZ has landscape value, especially windy hilltops.

I think we'll just have to suck up the loss of landscape value for wind farms and hydro. If in the future we come up with a better way of generating power we can always demolish the windmills.

Posted by Rich : 4/11/2007 12:04:00 PM

Rich: Pretty much all of NZ has landscape value, especially windy hilltops.

Sure - but not all of it has quite so much as the place Meridian is trying to build in.

We're not exactly short of good spots to put wind farms in at the moment, and there are plenty of places where the environmental impact is a lot lower, and the tradeoff is far more in renewable energy's favour. The choices should be easy - but Meridian seems to be doing its best to make them difficult.

(A cynic would almost think they wanted this project to fail, so they could scream and pout about the RMA some more. But I'm not sure they'd throw a few million down on that... would they?)

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 4/11/2007 12:25:00 PM

The easy wins are largely increased efficiency. Those should be taken up, and to some extent have been, but really need to be thumped home. Some stuff isn't within the power companies abilities, but other stuff is - they're allowed to charge more to dirty[1] users, for instance, and IMO they should do that a lot more.

We the nation could probably get a better return on investment by retrofitting insulation to houses and offices and banning crap like incandescent light bulbs, downlights, inefficient appliances and so on. Just making it illegal to sell a 3 star or worse appliance would be a big step, and likewise requiring appliances to draw less than 3W on standby (number pulled out of the air). But those are not investments that can be made by power companies, especially since they result is lower sales of the product...

In terms of wind farms visual pollution, I don't buy it. Maybe I'm stuck in the 60's "technology is pretty" mindset, but I like the look of wind farms. They're all clean and quiet and pretty.

[1] dirty in the sense of harmonics and power factor, not mud.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/11/2007 03:10:00 PM

Anon: I like the look of windfarms too - but that doesn't mean I want one on every ridgeline. Having places where there aren't windfarms (or indeed, much of anything other than dry grass, rock, and sheep) is valuable too.

There are other windfarm proposals for Otago set in much less significant landscapes. And there are proposals in the Manawatu which aren't in reserves. Those are the ones I'd like to see go ahead. We have enough space that we're a long way from it being an either/or choice.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 4/11/2007 03:35:00 PM

Wow, my verification word is "cthvthhu". It's Friday the 13th.

I'm all for putting wind farms outside reserves and so on, but I'm also well aware that there are groups like "Landscape Guardians" that are funded to oppose all windfarms on the grounds that they look ugly. So I'm not inclined to accept those arguments at face value. Especially after the Wellington nonsense.

What does bother me is the low efficiency of putting a wind farm in Otago. FFS, transmission losses mean that we could build a 20% smaller wind farm in Wellington and get the same benefit. It's more NIMBYism, and I don't like it.

The ranty part of me wants to require that every block of (say) 10000 dwellings generate 50% of its power locally. So the West Coast would need a local hyro scheme or something to cover most of the coast, but Aucklanders would have to decide between a small coal or gas or wind plant somewhere they could see it. Let's see how you feel about wind power now, f**kers.

Posted by Moz : 4/13/2007 02:09:00 PM

The stars are clearly right. Ia! Ia!

And tell me about it. The Friends of the Turitea Reserve, who I'd joined on the basis that they'd stand up for the reserve, have morphed into a bunch of feral anti-wind freaks. As opposed to a "its good, but the price here is too high" - which I think may be the case with Project Hayes as well. And even if its not, making Meridian argue its case and convince people that its not is well worth it. Sadly, they seem to have returned to type and are getting pouty at the mere suggestion that there are values otherthan corporate profits and energy security.

As for Aucklanders and local generation, I'd say the same thing about coal. if they think that running their air conditioners is so bloody important, let them pay for it in lung cancer.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 4/13/2007 02:40:00 PM

I _really_ agree with a network of small local power generation like Moz suggested.

If every household had a few solar panels and there were community based wind farms, hydo etc. not only would people be more aware of their power usage, they might be a bit more responsible about conserving it. Same goes with industry.

I'd also become a packaging nazi and make everything be like Bin Inn whereby people reuse their own containers. Not to mention putting freight onto our rail networks and selling things locally rather than importing, say apricots from China to sell here.

Energy, water and waste must be factored into the cost of production and not spread onto the tax payers to subsidise polluters and energy hungry activities.

Posted by Muerk : 4/13/2007 02:45:00 PM

Muerk: The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment [PDF] agrees as well - though his point is also about efficiency of end use. it is ridiculous, for example, that we burn gas in a generator in Taranaki and transmit the electricity to Auckland to heat water, when we could just burn the gas there instead and get at least twice the direct output.

Energy, water and waste must be factored into the cost of production and not spread onto the tax payers to subsidise polluters and energy hungry activities.

And there's a solid economic basis for this as well - externalising costs in the way we do now leads to inefficiencies and misallocations of resources. Unfortunately, too many on the right who benefit from dumping their costs on us get away with insisting that they're not "really" costs. We're about to learn a harsh lesson on that wrt greenhouse gases come January 1st...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 4/13/2007 03:16:00 PM