Wind power goes mainstream in NZ

A NEWLY released report shows wind energy is being increasingly accepted as a mainstream fuel in New Zealand and that the country’s wind power generation can be rapidly expanded, according to industry players.
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The report – initiated by the New Zealand Electricity Commission – is the second half of a two-part study that looks at how substantial amounts of wind generation in the Manawatu region affects the scheduling and dispatch of power into the electricity markets.

The New Zealand Wind Energy Association said the report showed that a significant amount of wind energy could be developed in New Zealand in a short period.

NZWEA chief executive James Glennie welcomed the report’s acknowledgement of the potential of wind energy, and the importance of a flexible and robust national grid in its development.

“The integration of large-scale wind generation into New Zealand’s power system has moved beyond a point of academic curiosity to a matter of economic importance to the country,” Glennie said.

“We believe wind energy can provide New Zealand with 20% of our electricity in an affordable, reliable and environmentally sustainable fashion.

“We now need modern electricity infrastructure and modified rules which recognise this new form of generation.

“The NZWEA particularly welcomes the recognition of the need for national wind forecasting. Knowing where New Zealand’s wind resources are, and when, is critical to the responsible development of wind energy,” Glennie said.

The study looks at how wind generation affects grid frequency, how the accuracy of wind forecasts affects system management, and at the effects of changing power flows across the grid as a result of varying turbine output.

It was partly designed to assess what changes would be needed to integrate current and planned wind generation into the national electricity generation scheduling and dispatching system.

Government-owned Meridian Energy – which produces only renewable forms of energy – said existing market rules had been structured for gas and hydro generation technology. Meridian supported further required rule changes to enable successful integration of further wind generation into the national grid power system.

“We are keen to see any rules prescribe the outcomes or standards required of the generation plant and allow the generation operator the flexibility to decide how to achieve the rule requirements,” said Meridian wind development manager Adam Muldoon.

“There may also be the opportunity to develop new products or new technologies to manage the power system which now includes wind generation.”

Meridian has substantial plans for investment in wind generation, according to Muldoon.

Wind power has been criticised for being unpredictable. Because wind power generators operate only when there are significant winds, they require conventional power stations as back-up systems.

This is not a problem in New Zealand, according to the NZWEA.

“New Zealand, with our extensive hydro capacity, is particularly well placed to manage the challenges that are created by the large scale integration of wind generation,” Glennie said.

“The fluctuating nature of wind works well with hydro generation, which can be switched on and off at short notice, and allows water to be stored when the wind is blowing."

In other words, when the wind is blowing the water stays in the hydro lakes; when the wind stops, the dams open.

In 2004 the wind industry was the fastest growing energy sector in New Zealand with growth of more than 300%. Currently, 170MW is installed and operating and in the past 12 months, 200MW of new capacity has been consented to. Just over 600MW is in the resource process.

The NZWEA has more than 60 members, including some of New Zealand’s largest electricity generators and lines companies.

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