In the Environment Court last week, TrustPower’s major projects manager, Deion Campbell, refused to reveal information on two vitally significant aspects of its Mahinerangi wind farm proposal, citing commercial sensitivity.
The first protected information is the wind data gathered from the site. Now, I may be sadly mistaken, but is the wind data gathered from the site not the foundation on which this proposal is to be judged appropriate or not?
That data may have been collected for only two years, as TrustPower admit – far too brief a time for my liking, given the sprawling magnitude of this scheme – but unless the wind data is known and understood, how can anyone judge the validity of this scheme, and whether the landscape sacrifice it necessitates is warranted?
Wind is the resource, just as water is the natural resource in any hydro proposal. Wind speed and hourly/daily/weekly and seasonal occurrence (i.e. wind data) is the equivalent of river volume and flow.
Wind data is critical because, unlike river flow and volume, wind speed and the pattern of its occurrence is critical to the estimation of what output that wind farm will achieve.
Ignore the installed capacity arguments: the occasions on which wind estates achieve installed capacity (i.e. maximum potential output ) are few indeed; and only sharing of the wind data will allow doubters and supporters both to agree on the proposal’s efficiency, and by definition therefore, arrive at judgements of sacrifice and cost compared to energy gain.
Ignore too, the nonsense propaganda so beloved of the TrustPower and Meridian spin departments that “this project will power up to 200,000 homes”, or whatever they claim.
Well it might, on rare occasions when nature co-operates and gets the wind blowing at just the right speed for maximum output over just the right amount of time when consumer demand needs it and when the national grid can take it… but most of the time, this project will power far fewer than that, and for possibly 30% of the time, none at all.
Not a house. Not even a shed. We all need the actual site wind data to know for certain.
But this fundamental wind data is deemed to be “commercially sensitive”. Sensitive to whom?
Who are the rivals who would benefit from the knowledge? Under the RMA it’s first-come, first-served: TrustPower has no rivals for this site. “Sensitive”, perhaps, to consumers: wind estates are enormously expensive, and the cost of the energy they do manage is going to be far higher than what we are paying today.
And why is wind data “commercially sensitive” in a wind farm proposal when in any hydro plan the river flow and volume, the cumec readings are never secret? River flows and volumes are the foundation of any hydro proposal, the means by which energy output is always accurately plotted. Generating companies use the water; they do not own it.
Are we to believe that generating companies own the wind, that it is “theirs” to protect? Wind farm developers can and will never know what the output of their vast, invasive schemes will be.
It’s all guesswork, because the wind and nature never co-operate with computer modelling. Two years’ data gathered on site? Not enough to know anything reliable about an essentially
unreliable and unpredictable resource.
Just as in Meridian’s Project Hayes gargantuan proposal, these schemes surely require far more extensive data than two or three years may provide from one or two masts: intermittency and unreliability are the inherent characteristics of wind, and we all know that one year can be more breezy than another, one season more windy, this week very unlike the same week last year…
Long accumulations of data on site are essential to any judgement of any scheme’s real viability. And this data is apparently “commercially sensitive”, private too, and protected by the commercial developer.
Tough luck, consumers. Trust TrustPower. Believe in Meridian.
That huge report Meridian commissioned into their damming of the Mokihinui River on the West Coast came to the wrong conclusions, so Meridian pretended it wasn’t there, until some traitor leaked it. Perhaps it was “commercially sensitive”. It certainly was politically sensitive, as Meridian well knew.
Beaumont residents had better be nervous.
There was a second extraordinary secret kept from the Environment Court hearing: TrustPower’s Deion Campbell also refused to reveal the company’s “final design” of turbines – for commercial reasons again – as well as the number of turbines in the Mahinerangi plan (either 66 or 100), their final location, and their capacity output (either 2mW or 3mW).
So in TrustPower’s view, they should be allowed – indeed the Clutha District Council’s three commissioners did approve initial consent – a proposal in which the make, the size, the number, the output, and therefore the constructed roading, landscape modifications, associated infrastructures etc are not decided either!
No revealed wind data, no fundamental details, in fact. TrustPower is seeking flexibility. Read carte blanche.
This attitude is an affront to the intelligence of New Zealanders and the consumers who will finally pay. It seeks to gain institutional approval for little more than a theory.
How tragic energy mismanagement in this country has sunk to such depths.
Grahame Sydney is an artist. He lives in the Cambrian Valley, Central Otago.
24 April 2008
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