In celebration of Global Wind Day - we caught up with Principal Mechanical Engineer, Nigel Matuschka.
Nigel leads the New Zealand Power team in our Auckland office, working closely with our regional bases and Wind Generation Centre of Excellence in Melbourne. After a five-year dry-spell, New Zealand's wind industry is starting to pick-up. At least two new wind farm projects are expected to break-ground this year. Nigel fills us in on the trends, innovation and expectations that we can expect moving forward.
After a five-year hiatus, things are starting to perk up again for New Zealand. Mercury kicked-off stage one of its $256m Turitea Wind Farm; set to host 33 wind turbines with a combined capacity of 119MW. This alone is enough to power 210,000 electric cars; one of the many trends ultimately shaping our recent shift in demand for more power.
Another wind farm that may continue to progress in the development phase is the Waverly Wind Farm with up to 48 turbines in South Taranaki. Tilt Renewables and Genesis Energy have teamed-up for this development (10 years after the farm was initially proposed). The Waverley Wind Farm would produce enough clean energy each year to power about 70,000 homes and save the emission of roughly 350,000 tonnes of carbon, equivalent to removing about 70,000 cars from our roads. (Tilt Renewables)
The observed global trends for larger rotor diameters and uprated generators will shape our industry – this will play particularly true for the offshore sector, but we will also see demand in our onshore turbines too. In the past, many Wind Turbine Generators (WTGs) had rotor diameters (in the region) of 90m – dominating the global market for a number of years. Almost a decade ago, manufacturers started to introduce larger rotor diameters.
All of this has been possible due to the ongoing improvements in materials, technology, blade-testing and transportation. The new, larger machines offer a better yield and lower energy cost for a given installed capacity. So, major suppliers are now expected to offer few smaller turbine models. We may see a trend where many smaller turbines at the lower capacity of their product range will be discontinued. In a typical supply and demand scenario.
Our mates over in Australia have had a pretty hectic year, with over 5,679 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity and a further 19,602 MW of proposed capacity. This took the shape of 94 wind farms in total and a further 24 projects proposed or confirmed for 2019. Luckily, we can get support from our ANZ Centre of Excellence in Melbourne for insights, innovations and learnings from the number of projects they’ve been involved with.
We are very fortunate to be in the position we are. Our global network allows us to lean on experts from across the globe; tapping into insights and learnings accordingly and applying them to New Zealand’s landscape.
Plus, we have a deep pool of highly skilled resources right here in New Zealand. Because of this, we have been able to retain our relationships with our stakeholders at a grassroots level – throughout our 49 regional offices (including near some of New Zealand’s windiest locations, Palmerston North, Whanganui and New Plymouth). We have a true understanding of the local conditions and stakeholder requirements but can offer 'the gold' by producing and replicating what is working well overseas.
The demand for more renewable wind energy is power-housing the surge of innovation in this space. Now, we are seeing more batteries (or other energy storage systems) being incorporated into wind farms to avoid or defer expensive grid reinforcement costs, improve power quality and reliability and increase revenue for generators.
On a grid capacity constrained site, it may be possible to install extra turbines – so, in times of high winds, the turbines will charge the battery rather than curtail the wind farm output. The battery can export this energy to the grid when wind speeds lower and ideally when the spot price is higher.
Another possible innovation that is being explored in New Zealand, is the use of hydrogen as a transportable form of stored energy. In a similar concept to Tiwai and exporting aluminium, ‘excess’ wind generation could be used to produce hydrogen and provide another way for New Zealand to export our green electricity to a world market. It's all exciting stuff!