From charging a light bulb, mobile phone or electric vehicle to powering a life-saving medical device, electricity is the foundation of modern civilisation.
Demand remains high, with developing countries, population growth, evolving technology and expanding economies. With a global urgency to find sources of climate-friendly energy, where does our country look for clean electricity?
Along the coastline west of Wellington are 62 tall, slender towers with outstretched arms that rotate gently in the Cook Strait winds. This is Meridian Energy’s West Wind Farm.
Harnessing wind for electrical energy is a simple principle. The wind turns a three-bladed propeller (reaching speeds of 300km/h at the blade tip), which spins a generator, creating electricity.
From humble beginnings in 1993 with the erection of a single turbine, New Zealand now has 17 wind farms spread across the country – most hugging the coastline – which generate sufficient electricity for about 300,000 homes.
That's about six percent of our generated electricity.
New Zealand currently has consents for additional wind power production, although sites are still to be sourced. When operational, this will nearly triple our current wind energy generation. Globally, wind farms have seen stellar growth. At the current rate, wind will generate sufficient energy to power one-third of the global energy demands by 2050.
Other options for producing clean energy will be the focus of the National New Energy Development Centre (NNECC) in Taranaki.
With major investment from central Government, the centre will lead New Zealand’s transition to a sustainable, low-emissions future, developing clean, affordable, renewable energy and shifting away from fossil fuels.
NNEDC will look at the full range of emerging clean energy solutions such as offshore wind, solar batteries, hydrogen, geothermal and waste-to-energy alternatives. There is also a science research component to the new centre to develop cutting edge technology in the battle against climate change.
Reported by Chris van Ryn for our AA Directions Spring 2020 issue