The wind energy industry has been told it needs to work alongside Transpower to enable investment to be made in new transmission lines. The call came from Wind Energy Association chief executive Fraser Clark, who told the industry’s annual conference in Wellington today that so far wind energy projects were being built relatively close to transmission lines.
“But eventually we’ll start to reach some constraints or we’ll want to go into some frontier areas, new areas where that transmission line doesn’t exist or significant new capacity might be required,” he said. Transpower grid investment strategy manager Conrad Edwards said the existing grid would have to evolve so it could take a significant penetration by intermittent sources of generation.
Generators could possibly get a plant up and running within a small number of years, while for new transmission it could take maybe eight years, if lucky, for a significant new line, Mr Edwards said. In looking at the issue of opening up new areas where renewable resources could be exploited, Transpower had to assess which areas were the most economic to open up, select where it would make strategic investments, and then decide how much to invest.
It did not want to be making decisions about which areas to open up on its own, and needed to agree with the industry and Electricity Commission about broad assumptions and processes.
Transpower was looking at speeding up the lead time for new lines, considering issues such as designations, easements and maybe property in advance, he said. It was not easy and sometimes those factors could account for half the cost of a new line.
Transpower recently started two economic investment projects, which were the first it had started with the specific aim of encouraging renewables, Mr Edwards said. One was on the Wairakei ring in the centre of the North Island and the other was looking at constraints in the lower South Island that might curtail generation investment, particularly wind.
Those projects would look at the best outcomes for the areas involved, and also test Transpower’s planning processes and the regulatory regime to see how it worked for the as yet untried issue of opening up a renewable area. The Government has set a target of having 90 percent of electricity generation coming from renewable sources by 2025, compared to between 65 and 70 percent now.
Figures from the Wind Energy Association put the current contribution from wind at 2.5 percent. Energy Minister David Parker said it was essential suitable renewable energy projects gained resource consents.
The Government would be providing guidance for local authorities on the importance of renewables, through a national policy statement due to be in place early next year, he said. “This does not mean renewables at any environmental cost, and we don’t need to dam every river or have wind turbines on every ridge line.”
Later in the day Mr Clark raised concerns about the ridge line comment. “It’s never actually going to happen, anyway. It creates the wrong impression with the public,” Mr Clark said. He suggested an accurate description would be “a turbine on a very occasional ridge line, recognising that they’re going to be in clusters and they’re going to be in certain locations”.
8 April 2008