NZWEA vision is that wind power will account for around 20% of our electricity generation by 2035, up from 6% in 2017. The timeframe for achieving the vision was changed in 2017 from 2030 to 2035 to reflect the lack of recent new wind development following a period of reducing electricity demand and high reserve margins.
How will the country achieve this?
There is already a strong policy setting in favour of renewable electricity generation with an existing bipartisan government target of having 90% of New Zealand’s energy generated from renewable sources by 2025. In addition the Government has announced its intent to develop a transition plan to achieve 100% renewable electricity generation, in a normal hydrology year, by 2035.
To achieve increased renewable generation, the country would need to retire some of our old, less-efficient, fossil fuel plant and build more wind farms, commission more geothermal power stations, and erect more solar panels. We need to take advantage of the leaps in technology that make renewable energy more cost-effective than running gas or coal fired generation and recognise its key role in reducing carbon emissions.
This might sound like a big task, but as New Zealand strives to meet its Paris Agreement carbon reduction target and the cost of generating using fossil fuels increases the advantages of renewable generation will continue to improve.
In striving for 100% renewable electricity generation it is recognised that thermal generation should only be needed to ‘balance’ out electricity demand at times when there are low lake levels limiting hydro generation or in emergencies.
An assessment of New Zealand’s wind resource shows that New Zealand’s wind has the potential to be used to generate over three times New Zealand’s current annual electricity demand.
It is highly unlikely that wind’s potential will be realised to this extent for a number of reasons, including the advantage of having a variety of forms of generation to draw upon to meet demand. Diversity in generation enables a system to respond and maintain supply even when there is a serious problem with one form of generation (for example, low hydro lake inflows, an unexpected fault with a thermal station or calm wind conditions).
A more likely scenario is that by 2035, New Zealand will have around 3,000 MW of installed wind energy capacity, supplying 20% of our electricity. In this scenario there would be wind farms in areas with good wind conditions, such as the Waikato, Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu, the Wellington region, Central Otago and Southland. There would also be smaller community developments and individual commercial turbines on farms and industrial sites.