Pushing against the wind


Editor:
Same crap different country.
The IESO in Ontario states that for planning purposes wind should only be counted on for 10% of it’s capacity rating. So, 1,000MW of wind is equivalent to 100MW of conventional power. The Govt., Media, and the Wind Industry continue to refer to the number of homes powered by wind, based on full capacity not the reality of 10%. At 7am today the 472MWs of wind power in Ont. were pumping out 18MWs, which is 3.82% of their plated capacity. 300 hones powered per MW for 18MW is 5400 homes. The govt. wind industry and the media would like you to believe that 141,600 are being powered by wind.

They should all be charged for false advertising. If they are not being truthful about the real capacity of wind, what else are they not telling us about our electrical system.

How does Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ont., feel about wind energy?

Ontario Hansard – 19-April2006
“I think the member opposite knows that when it comes to natural gas, prices there tend to be volatile, and it remains a significant contributor to global warming. Wind turbines: We are investing heavily in those, but again, those are an expensive form of electricity and they’re not reliable, because sometimes obviously the wind does not blow. When it comes to solar, those tend to be expensive as well.”

Pushing against the wind

The wind rush is on. Plans to erect sweeping wind farms are being unfurled at a rate of knots. But is this really clean green energy, or just another case of greedy corporates trashing our landscapes for profit? Anton Oliver argues it’s about time New Zealanders woke up to the dark side of wind power.

Forests of turbines spinning on distant hills: in these carbon-aware times, the glory of wind farms is being touted as the one-stop solution to all our energy ills. So aggressive has been the rush to build them that a week doesn’t seem to go by without a new application for an industrial-scale turbine site going before a local council for consideration under the Resource Management Act (RMA), with a mad green fervour.

You’d be forgiven, then, if it escaped your notice that wind power was part of the problem, not the solution, when the Electricity Commission last week announced that we’re teetering on the brink of yet another major electricity shortage.

The emergency button that is Whirinaki’s diesel-burning power plant (the official national standby) had been pushed, initiated by high wholesale electricity prices thanks to equipment failure at Taranaki’s combined-cycle plant, high water temperatures in the Waikato River forcing Huntly’s coal-burning plant to trim back production and becalmed summer skies over Manawatu meaning its plethora of wind turbines were as useful as wet paper toothpicks.

It may also have escaped your attention that as we rush to cover the country in wind farms (more precisely, as the energy oligarchs rush to gather the armfuls of carbon credits being dangled before them by government as a green bribe), in Europe far greater scrutiny is being applied to the imposition of these vast energy factories upon the environment.

Last week it was leaked that plans for the largest land-based wind farm in Britain, a 181-turbine development in the Scottish Hebrides, are to be vetoed by Scottish ministers due to likely negative impacts on wild birdlife. Likewise, a 27-turbine project in the rolling uplands of Cumbria, England an area with similar tourism and landscape values to Central Otago was deemed “a step too far” in the quest for green energy.

You won’t have read about it here because it’s not in the interests of this country’s major power players to tell you. The Labour-led government has its blinkers on trying to make up for its gross miscalculation of our Kyoto obligations come 2012 (which, rather than deliver us a profit as Labour initially declared, will, according to Business New Zealand projections, cost us as much as $3 billion), frantically searching for alternative revenue streams hence its renewed interest in carbon credits and emissions trading to pay for its incompetence.

Based on the evidence so far, its stated energy and climate change policy to be 90% renewable in our energy generation by the year 2025 should not be seen as green or carbon friendly, but a state-directed, revenue-motivated assault on New Zealand’s natural environment.

The least the government should have done is to come up with a sensible, national, overarching strategy for wind energy generation in New Zealand: instead energy generators including the government’s own SOE, Meridian Energy have seized upon the lack of guidelines in a frantic wind rush for the most cost-effective sites.

Hang on, isn’t the RMA supposed to safeguard us from the excesses of corporate developers?

While the RMA is touted as being a democratic process, the reality is that the success of an appellant’s case comes down to how much money they can raise; since most don’t have a spare $100,000-$500,000 in their coffers to pay a QC and their support staff.

An opponent as financially rotund as Meridian, meanwhile, has a team of lawyers and expensive experts and can afford a cartel of QCs to browbeat local councillors and other beleaguered individuals seriously out of their depth who tend to make up resource consent hearing panels.

Last week, the Crown, via the Ministry for the Environment, made a whole-of-government submission supporting Project Hayes (Meridian’s controversial 176 turbines, proposed for Central Otago, which is headed for the Environment Court).

It cited wind generation as being of national interest since it “ensures” security of energy supply by providing additional generation capacity and diversification of electricity production methods and, secondly, supposedly helps New Zealand address climate change issues.

Yet no one is asking the hard questions of a government desperate to sell itself to an increasingly green-aware public in election year.

As the fine print of the Energy Commission release indicated, wind energy is not reliable. No one knows when it will blow. At best, crude statistics are used to predict how much it will blow on average over very long time frames (months, years). Wind generation cannot be calculated with any security: will it blow tomorrow morning, Friday evening or next Wednesday at 6pm when Huntly’s going to be offline or the hydro lakes are low?

New Zealanders are sold on the concept that all wind is green, therefore large-scale wind is the panacea for all our woes. But wind farms like Project Hayes are attractive to the generator oligarchy only because of economics of scale and carbon credits: together they make industrial-sized wind not only financially viable, but exceedingly profitable.

Basing security of supply, meanwhile, on something that is as inherently unpredictable is somewhere south of foolish. Overseas experience has already shown that for every 1000 megawatts of wind generation installed less than 10% can be calculated as firm generating capacity, therefore increasing rather than decreasing traditional energy supply (often carbon-emitting) because of the fundamental problem: when the wind stops blowing, where does the power come from?

Meridian and other generators continue to regurgitate their standard spiel that this or that wind farm is “capable of producing enough electricity to power 100,000 homes”. Try supplying Wellington’s Courtenay Pl, Lambton Quay, the Beehive and ancillary government buildings with wind power only for a year and in December ask them how they got on.

Wind surges also cause massive voltage and frequency increases, threatening the integrity and stability of the grid (which, under Cook Strait, even last week had to be held at a paltry 400MW to stop the system from overloading). Of course, sudden decreases in wind have to be replaced by alternative, ready-to-go energy standbys such as Whirinaki. Not the kind of admission we tend to hear from energycoms as they try to push their wind schemes on to an unsuspecting public.

Leaving aside the belief that it will have unacceptable environmental and tourism impacts on an iconic slice of Otago, Meridian’s Project Hayes wind farm has yet to disclose any alternative methods for generating electricity when it isn’t blowing, nor how the grid will handle the load placed on it, nor even some basic science collected from the site to back up their claims that this is a good thing for the country as a whole.

Peak Oil New Zealand

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