Smaller and Smarter Wind Energy

Published: Fri 30 May 2008 02:46 PM
Smaller and Smarter Wind Energy
A smarter way to achieve sustainable electricity in New Zealand was presented to the Energy Trusts of NZ conference in Wellington today by Windflow Technology Chief Executive and Director Geoff Henderson.
Mr Henderson told attendees at the Powering the People themed conference that, “the trend towards very large wind farms of several hundred megawatts using very large turbines is concerning for New Zealand”.  His presentation was titled "Smaller and Smarter Wind Energy”.
 “The media is increasingly reporting local opposition to these types of projects, and the large ‘lumpy’ investments that they propose are not conducive to creation of a competitive electricity market which could deliver lower and more stable electricity prices”.
Mr Henderson's presentation showed that large energy projects such as the 360 megawatt Taranaki Combined Cycle plant caused electricity prices to drop initially, then long gaps between new large lumps of generation caused a "feast and famine" cycle which cause price instability.
This lumpy investment problem is being repeated in the wind industry based on a false economic argument for “bigger is better”.  This is a myth, he said, with smaller turbines actually being cheaper than larger turbines on an installed megawatt basis.
He also stressed the lower environmental and social impacts of “smaller and smarter” wind energy projects.  “Smaller is smarter for New Zealand for many reasons, and with the right competitive market conditions, the country will be better off with this model in the long run”.  Mr Henderson concluded.
Presented against the background of this week’s warnings of a falling hydro lakes, a tightening energy market leading to re-commissioning of  the power station and the gathering momentum of the ‘Save the Landscapes’ campaign against vista transforming 160m high wind turbines, Mr Henderson’s address attracted  immediate support for further reforms in the energy sector.
“It looks as though only companies with both a generation and retail base can hedge the risks of our variable electricity prices, which are compounded by hydro uncertainties”, said Electricity Networks Association CEO Alan Jenkins.
“Without this hedge ability, independent power producers such as local lines companies can’t risk building smaller and smarter generation projects close to the energy load.  These market conditions are not encouraging competition in the electricity sector.
“Current moves to finally scale back the restraints on lines company generating are certainly welcome, and the time is right to replace regulatory silos with structures that promote supply security and more active market competition.”

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