Tuesday, October 16, 2007

More wind

Contact Energy has announced that it will continue to defer its consented Otahuhu-C gas turbine, and instead build a 650 MW windfarm on the Waikato coast. This wouldn't just be the largest windfarm in New Zealand (it pips Meridian's Project Hayes by 20MW) - it would also be the country's third largest power station, with only Manapouri and Huntly being larger. And unlike Hayes, it has a good chance of gaining resource consent - there are no outstanding landscape issues, and Environment Waikato has been pretty good about consenting windfarms (they've already consented two further down the coast at the Kawhia harbour).

(The windfarm will be supplemented by a 100MW gas-fired fast peaking plant at Stratford, but that will be offset by Contact reducing usage of its existing 330MW New Plymouth Steam Turbine (an aging, creaking, inefficient wreck, already relegated to reserve) and consigning it permanently to dry-year backup. Which isn't a bad Thing at all).

So, the government's Energy Strategy is already bearing fruit. And unlike the frankly ignorant and alarmist Colin Espiner and the equally ignorant and alarmist DPF, I don't think we'll have any trouble securely meeting our future demand growth from renewables. To throw some real figures at the debate - something both Espiner and DPF conspicuously avoid - take a look at the New Zealand Wind Energy Association list of active projects. Taking into account the changes since its most recent update, we now have 244MW of wind farms currently under construction (Te Rere Hau and Westwind); 411MW consented and which can start construction anytime, 421MW awaiting appeals, and another 715MW still in the consent process - giving us almost 1400MW of new wind within the next five or six years if everything goes through. Add Contact's 650MW monster into that, and we're looking at 2000 MW. This is well in excess of forecast demand growth, and should mean we meet that 90% renewable by 2025 target with ease.