A report to Waikato Regional Council’s Climate Action Committee has identified exciting opportunities in the region for using wind, solar and biomass for future domestic needs. The region is being viewed very favourably by domestic and international investors due to its abundant wind and sunshine assets, and accessibility to good power distribution networks.
“As senior strategic advisor Blair Dickie said the Waikato is a ‘Goldilocks’ region for domestic renewable energy and there is also the potential to export 100% renewable green fuels,” said Denis Tegg – deputy chair of the Climate Action Committee and representative for Thames Coromandel on Waikato Regional Council.
“Imagine if we had massively invested in wind and solar 10 years ago and electrified our transport fleet as Norway has done. We’d now be much less dependent on fossil fuels from despotic regimes like Putin’s Russia that are funding the war in Ukraine, changing the climate, costing us billions in importing oil and health costs and increasing the cost of living. But it’s never too late to start”, said Cr Tegg
“Auckland is a large demand centre and high sun wind resources in the upper North Island favour the Waikato regions. The newest and most robust part of the national grid is between Taupō and Auckland. That means that much of the new generation will be in the Waikato region and probably north of a line between Hamilton and Te Aroha”, said Cr Tegg.
“Already there is strong interest in renewable energy projects in the Waikato region. The Climate Action Committee recently heard from Richard Hobbs of Transpower that enquiries are flooding in for the Waikato.”
Three utility-scale solar projects are being progressed by national and international entities.
· Waiterimu project proposing a 380ha, 150MW, 300Gigawatt hours per year. 22 kilometres northeast of Huntly by Waikato Solar Farms, a subsidiary of United Kingdom-based Island Green Power. The project is close to Transpower’s robust grid section between Hamilton and Auckland.
· Tauhei/Te Aroha west project proposing a 182ha, 147MW, 329,000 panels by Harmony Energy New Zealand. The project has been ministerially approved for COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act 2020 processing and involves associated wetland restoration.
· Whitianga project proposing a 54Gigawatt hours per year solar array at Whitianga. This will increase the resilience of communities in the upper Coromandel peninsula, especially if it is paired with storage capacity such as a battery as the entire peninsula is reliant on external power with the potential to be isolated.
Wel Networks has also announced plans to build an energy storage battery at Rotowaro, adding to the region’s renewable energy capabilities.
Biomass in the form of dried and processed wood pellets are a direct substitution for industrial heat previously provided by coal. This has been pioneered in the Waikato region by Fonterra at its Te Awamutu dairy factory. Genesis Energy is trialling the use of processed wood pellets as a coal substitute at the Huntly power station.
Meridian’s, 64MW Te Uku wind farm. The site was commissioned in 2011 and generates electricity in winds from 14 Km/hr to 90Kms/hour providing 250GW hours per year from 28 turbines.
There are two live projects currently being progressed in the region:
· Kaimai Windfarm project, 24 turbines, 125MW, 440 GW hours south of Paeroa near the Tirohia quarry. Consenting is in progress.
· Taumatatotara Wind Farm proposed by Ventus Energy NZ for 11 turbines 30 MW, 10 kilometres south of Taharoa, Waitomo District. Consenting is in progress.
Investigations by an international consortium have identified several opportunities for marine wind off the Waikato west coast and for floating (lake) solar in the north of the region. The scale of the wind projects is large – in the gigawatt range potentially occupying hundreds of square kilometres in the Exclusive Economic Zone and Coastal Marine Area.
Typically, anchored devices have smaller footprints than standing structures, but would be able to coexist with marine biodiversity such as Maui dolphin, and human uses such as low-impact commercial recreational fishing. The estimated seabed footprint of marine turbines is just 50 square metres .
Thames Coromandel representative on Waikato Regional Council