New Zealand’s Renewable Energy Resources

New Zealand’s energy production comes from both renewable and non-renewable sources. In 2016, about 85% of electricity generation came from renewable sources, marking the country’s highest production level in 35 years.

Renewable energy comes from sources that replenish naturally in a considerably short period of time. The country’s renewable energy supply particularly comes from geothermal, hydro (24%), biomass (17%), wind and solar power.

Aspiring for a future with a secure and resilient renewable energy supply, the NZ government has put into place research and development initiatives to economically grow its renewables supply. Electricity renewable percentage is trending up since the mid-2000s due to the continual market development, declining costs of renewable technologies and the downgrading of Maui natural gas reserves.

The country has significant advantages in electricity generation, given its vast renewable resources from windswept landscapes to volcanic features and generous sunlight hours. Currently, NZ has the third highest renewables percentage of total primary energy supply (TPES) in the OECD, next to Norway and Iceland.

Below are the types of renewable energy sources that make up the country’s supply:

Geothermal

New Zealand is located strategically between two tectonic plates, meaning it has vast potential for geothermal power generation. The Earth’s crust is thinner along faults, so the hot mantle is much closer to the surface. The heat generated and stored in the ground is what we call geothermal energy, which supplies 17 percent of the country’s electricity and 22 percent of our TPES.

Geothermal fluid, which is a mixture of high pressure water and steam, is piped from deep wells to a central generation power plant where it is turned into steam. The steam is what drives turbine generators to produce electricity. 

Since it’s not weather dependent, geothermal energy supply is consistent and reliable. However, careful monitoring and management of water and pressure levels in the power station are necessary to prevent land subsidence and depletion. This generation method does produce greenhouse gas emissions, but still at a relatively lower amount than the cleanest natural gas plants.

Hydro power

Hydro power generation is the backbone of New Zealand’s electricity system, contributing more than half of our electricity supply.

Hydroelectricity plants rely on gravity to drive water from nearby streams, rivers or dams through turbines, which drive power generators. The process is fast and gives off no greenhouse gases, however there are environmental repercussions to building dams.

The challenge with hydro schemes is New Zealand’s lack of water storage capacity and variable water supplies. Fortunately, the growing wind farms and solar power systems are easing these concerns.

Wind

Wind turbines harness wind power and convert it into electricity. With the country’s vast landscapes, wind-powered generation is a very promising form of electricity generation. It is one of the most environmentally friendly methods as well, given that wind turbines don’t produce greenhouse gas emissions during operation. That being said, wind energy only accounts to two percent of New Zealand’s total renewable energy supply.

Three quarters of Kiwis support wind farms, but there are objections to the sight of them and the noise they create. This has led to stricter building codes for farms as well as noise standards for turbines to ensure quieter operation.

Solar

We use either passive or active solar power systems to harness the sun’s energy. Passive systems use architecture and engineering to design homes to absorb solar radiation for heating spaces. Active systems use photovoltaic (PV) solar panels to generate electricity as well as solar water heating devices. Solar panels consist of light-sensitive cells that absorb sunlight and irradiance to produce electricity.

Solar electricity is silent, unobtrusive and sustainable. It is the underdog among all of New Zealand’s renewable resources. While it’s totally free and can be used all around the country, it currently amounts to only 2 percent of the total primary renewable supply.

The benefits are definitely there, but there are apprehensions to its uptake primarily due to the high capital cost of solar power systems. Another hindrance to its utilisation is that solar PV is branded as a ‘disruptive technology’ because it challenges the conventional model of electricity provision. However, newer technologies and price reductions in solar PV equipment are making solar power more efficient and affordable to own. And the ever-increasing prices of electricity are pushing more Kiwis to adopt solar as an alternative power generation method.

In fact, there are a number of island resorts that installed their own off-grid solar power plants to cut costs and gain energy independence. On the other hand, householders and property owners prefer grid-tied systems as they need backup power from the grid when the solar panels aren’t generating power at night.

Bioenergy

Bioenergy is fuel made from biomass feedstocks, which are renewable organic materials such as trees, residue wood, crops and by-products like straw, manure, sewage, etc. This type of energy contributed to 7 percent of our TPES in 2015.

Biomass can be burned to provide process heat, which can be used directly or used to generate electricity. Residue wood can be burned to produce heat for domestic use, although this practice is used primarily in the timber industry.

Alternatively, biomass can be turned into liquid biofuels for use in transport. The most common types of biofuels are bioethanol (a type of alcohol fuel processed from waste and organic by-products) and biodiesel (made from animal fats and vegetable oils). Biofuels help make our vehicles cleaner and gentler on the environment.

The current issues with bioenergy are the costs of gathering and transporting biomass feedstocks. Nevertheless, recent innovations are making it easier and cheaper to produce biofuels on a mass scale.

 

Renewable Energy

In your search for a solar energy solution you will have read about “renewable energy”. Is it a term that you are familiar with? Do you know what it really means? Often, when searching for a new product you will read terms that those in the know will happily bandy about – you can either skip over them and hope that you will understand eventually what they’re talking about or you can dig a little deeper and develop your own understanding.

So what is Renewable Energy?

What is the definition of Renewable?  Renewable means that something is capable of being replaced by natural ecological cycles. What about Energy? Energy can have many definitions, but today we will take the definition of “usable power” So, when you come across the term “Renewable Energy” you can understand this to be “usable power that can be replaced naturally”.

What sort of power is this? Wind, Solar, Geothermal, Hydro Electric and Biomass all fall under the renewable energy category. Each source of renewable energy has unique benefits and costs involved but all create much less environmental impact than traditional forms of energy. Wind, solar, and hydroelectric systems generate electricity with no associated air pollution emissions, however geothermal and biomass energy systems do emit some air pollutants – although the total air emissions from geothermal and biomass energy systems are generally much lower than those of coal- and natural gas-fired power plants.

Why is it so important to choose to use renewable energy? Well, for centuries humans have been slowly, but surely, depleting the earth’s natural resources. Coal and Natural Gas have long been the world’s major source of energy for use in industry and home. Scientists have discovered though, that the world’s coal veins and gas fields are fast dwindling and on top of having a finite number of years left before there is no more, they both contribute carbon dioxide and other global warming emissions into the atmosphere. These bad emissions trap heat and steadily drive up Earth’s temperature and this in turn creates significant impacts on our health, environment and climate.

What kind of benefits are found with renewable energy? Generating electricity from renewable energy rather than fossil fuels can offer significant public health benefits. The air and water pollution emitted by coal and natural gas plants is linked to breathing problems, neurological damage, heart attacks, and cancer.

Wind and solar energy require essentially no water to operate and thus do not pollute water resources or strain supply by competing with agriculture, drinking water systems, or other important water needs.

Renewable energy can provide economic benefits too. Throughout the world, strong winds, sunny skies, plant residues, heat from the earth, and fast-moving water can each provide a vast and constantly replenished energy resource supply. These diverse sources of renewable energy have the technical potential to provide all the electricity the nation needs many times over with minimal cost.

While renewable facilities require upfront investments to build, once built they operate at very low cost and, for most technologies, the fuel is free. As a result, renewable energy prices are relatively stable over time.

The costs of renewable energy technologies have declined steadily, and are projected to drop even more. The cost of renewable energy will decline even further as markets mature and companies increasingly take advantage of economies of scale.

Using more renewable energy can lower the prices of and demand for natural gas and coal by increasing competition and diversifying our energy supplies. An increased reliance on renewable energy can help protect consumers when fossil fuel prices spike. 

What are the risks in relying on Renewable Energy? The risk of disruptive events will also increase in the future as droughts, heat waves, more intense storms, and increasingly severe wildfires become more frequent due to global warming. Renewable energy sources are more resilient than coal, natural gas, and nuclear power plants in the face of these sorts of extreme weather events.

For example, coal, natural gas, and nuclear power depend on large amounts of water for cooling, and limited water availability during a severe drought or heat wave puts electricity generation at risk. Wind turbines and solar photovoltaic systems do not require water to generate electricity, and they can help mitigate risks associated with water scarcity.

Wind and solar are less prone to large-scale failure because they are distributed and modular. Distributed systems are spread out over a large geographical area, so a severe weather event in one location will not cut off power to an entire region. Modular systems are composed of numerous individual wind turbines or solar arrays. Even if some of the equipment in the system is damaged, the rest can typically continue to operate.

 

 

 

How are wind turbines used with solar power generation?

Did you know that solar panels are not the only means of producing free energy for your home? In fact, there are a number of other methods of power generation which can be used to produce the power you need. One such method is through wind turbines.

Wind turbines can often be used in conjunction with solar panels in a solar system to add to the power produced and usitlize the wind as well as the sun. This results in a very effective system which covers two main areas of power generation. But how exactly do they work?

The wind turbine will be planned and built into the solar system, so that the power generated will be "placed" in the same place that the power from the solar panels goes. They work in a similar priciple to a solar panel, produce power from a natural element. When wind blows, it spins the blades which spin a shaft that is connected to an electrical generator which produces the electricity. The electricity is then either fed into the electrical grid, or to your batteries, depending on whether the system is grid connected or independent.

If you think you could benefit from a wind turbine with your solar system, talk to us today and we will advise you on whether it is a worthwhile investment for your solar electric or heating system.

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