Feb/March 2016 News

Blueskin Energy Project Column – March 2016

 “Can the Blueskin Wind Farm reduce greenhouse gas emissions?” is a question that sometimes comes up. It relates to the well-known fact that there is plenty of renewable electricity generation in the South Island. The short answer is yes, and here’s how. Everyone connected to the grid receives electricity from a nationwide network that is supplied by generation plants in different parts of the country. Around 70% of New Zealand's electricity is generated from renewable sources though that  changes year by year, depending on the weather. The remaining 30% or so is generated from gas and/or coal fired generation plants. The gas and/or coal fired electricity generation is most often used to cover what is called ‘peak load’. ‘Peak load’ describes a period when more electricity is needed for a sustained period of time. Typically, it happens twice a day: First - early morning when we get up, shower, put the jug on, use the toaster, put a load of washing on, put a heater on if its cold, all before we head out to work. Second – when we get home, put the jug on, start cooking dinner, turn on the TV, computer, music, or gaming console and switch on a heater if its cold. These are the ‘rush hour’ times for electricity. We all want it at once. At these times coal and gas are burnt to ensure we get the electricity we need. With wind turbines and wind we need less electricity from these sources during ‘rush hour’.

HuntlyHuntly Power Station runs on natural gas and, until 2018, on coal.

 There’s another significant saving associated with locally located wind turbines.  Our electricity is supplied via a long stringy network and a lot of that electricity is ‘lost’ in transmission. Energy is lost as heat because of resistance in the lines. The greater the distance the electricity has to travel, the higher the losses. The higher the losses, the higher the total amount of electricity that has to be made available at all times and also at Peak load times. The more electricity we use, the greater use of coal and gas for electricity generation.

 Assuming the Blueskin wind farm is built, electricity will be generated close to where it is needed. This will reduce the usual transmission losses in our electricity supply to Blueskin and it will increase the total amount of renewable electricity generation within the whole system. As a result the time coal and gas plants will need to operate to supply us with electricity will be reduced. It has been estimated that the proposed wind farm will reduce Dunedin’s greenhouse gas emissions by 966 tonnes per year. That’s nothing to sneeze at! Our Resource Consent application has been submitted to the DCC and many people have had a say in whether it should go ahead or not. We’re investing in climate solutions for community benefit and we’ve valued all the feedback through the formal process.

 To keep an eye on things, check out our Blueskin Energy website: http://www.blueskinenergy.co.nz/ . There is also information about this project on the BRCT website (www.brct.org.nz), and you can find us on Facebook as Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust, on Twitter as @BlueskinPower and you can call 03 4822249 or call in to visit and find out more about any of our work.