One thing we should remember is that the Climate Commission has promised that electricity prices will not increase.
This is a nonsense claim for two reasons.
The first reason is that a domestic price increase of about 30% is already locked in because of the high prices over the last year or so resulting from insufficient reserve capacity for dry years.
The second reason is that the 4,000 MW or more of wind power that will be needed to achieve their dream has to be backed up for when the wind doesn’t blow – possibly 5-7 days on end. If you tried to back it up with batteries the cost of the batteries would be three or four times the cost of the wind turbines. So that would make wind energy impossibly expensive.
If you try to do it with the Onslow pumped storage scheme it simply doesn’t work. The problem is that when the wind is blowing you could have several thousand MW of surplus wind power available for pumping for several days. The scheme pumps from Lake Roxburgh which has virtually no storage. So after a few hours of pumping the lake would run dry.
If you try to release extra water from Lake Hawea it will take 6 to 8 hours to get there. So it will probably arrive just as the wind has dropped and would need to be passed on downstream.
All this is being studied by the New Zealand battery project which is supposed to give its draft report in April. It will either say that it is an impossible dream (most unlikely) or recommend that further studies be carried out to keep the politicians, the committee and the consultants happy. Only when the battery situation is resolved can we have any idea of the effect on power prices.
I cannot understand why the commission claimed that power prices would not rise.
Also, don’t forget that the existing hydro schemes cannot provide a lot of backup to wind power because most have strict constraints on lake level changes and rate of change of outflow.
Another problem regarding building 4,000 or more MW of wind power is that, as the Interim Committee on Climate Change pointed out, many of the consented windfarms have consents restricted to the size and layout of the wind turbines that were determined several years ago.
Modern wind turbines are much bigger and so will have a different visual impact and will be sited in different places. So you need a new resource consent.
For those, and many other reasons, the dreams of the Climate Commission will remain just that. If the government tries to implement them, it will be an absolute disaster for New Zealand.
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