Tuesday, July 02, 2019

The future of wind

The Otago Daily Times has an in-depth article about the future of wind energy in New Zealand, and it is looking bright:

The news that wind will play the leading role in New Zealand’s energy future was put up in lights by Transpower white paper Te Mauri Hiko, released last year. The report stated that electricity demand was likely to more than double, to about 90TWh (terawatt hours) per year, by 2050. By then, electricity will supply more than 60% of our total energy needs, having replaced all coal-fired industry and electricity generation as well as 40% of gas-­fuelled industry. Electricity will power most aspects of our lives, including 85% of personal vehicles.

Wind and sun will generate all that extra power, with a little help from geothermal and tide energy, Transpower says. Most of the solar energy will be installed by households and businesses. Wind will be the energy source the big generators invest in most heavily.

To meet the demand, 4.5 average-sized wind farms, of about 60 turbines each, would have to be built every year, starting in 2025.

The big driver on this is going to be electric vehicles. Replacing cars is going to mean a roughly 25% increase in electricity demand, and if we're to avoid burning the planet, that electricity must be from renewable sources. And wind and solar are the best solutions for that.

The good news is that we've got a huge amount of generation already consented, but we're going to need a lot more. But we have the problem that generators want to drag their feet to keep prices high. So if we want this to happen, we are likely to need government investment to push the market.

Meanwhile, the article also suggests that hydrogen (whether for industrial uses or heavy transport) may be a solution to the Climate Change Commission's overcapacity fears: if we need to build extra wind farms to ensure security of supply on a rare windless day in the depths of winter, they can crack hydrogen rather than stand idle the rest of the year. Its early days yet on whether this is viable, but one wind company is currently doing the experiment, with a contract to supply hydrogen to a fertiliser factory. So I guess we're going to find out.