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Industrial Research supports home wind turbines

Industrial Research supports home wind turbines

Researchers at Industrial Research Ltd are backing the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s comments promoting small wind turbines for homes, saying there is rising public enthusiasm for alternative energy sources such as wind generation.

Alister Gardiner, energy research manager at Industrial Research says the amount of interest in Dr Morgan William’s remarks shows people are interested in power generation which is under the control of the individual, rather than a “faceless supplier”.

“Consumer-owned technologies won’t have a major immediate impact on the way electricity is generated in New Zealand, but they could gradually play an important part in our future energy mix.”

He says before this can happen, however, New Zealand’s electricity network access rules need to be improved for micro-generation, as they are currently amongst the least supportive in the developed world.

“This is hard to understand in the context of a supposedly advanced and flexible electricity market. New Zealand has a particularly sparse and vulnerable network in which micro-generation should be able to play a more significant part. Even Australia has done more to encourage uptake of household level generation technologies.”

Industrial Research’s Christchurch-based researchers are currently evaluating the performance of small wind turbines, similar to the one identified by Dr Williams in his report.

“One turbine from China shows remarkably better performance that many of the others, simply because it is designed for much lighter wind conditions. Although this particular turbine is not suitable for mounting on a house roof, some of the newer designs certainly are,” Mr Gardiner says.

He says with the proper type of inverter-controller device, energy generated by this particular turbine could be competitive right now with grid-supplied electricity in rural areas with modest wind levels.

There are also opportunities for New Zealand power electronics companies to create the advanced inverter products needed for getting the best result from connecting micro-generator technologies to the network.

Over the next year Industrial Research will be developing a significant research programme to study the effects of integrating large numbers of these micro-energy systems into the New Zealand network. The company would like to see ‘showcase’ type residential demonstrations as a key aspect of this programme.

Mr Gardiner says they are hoping that the electricity supply industry and government agencies will support this research initiative so that concerns which have been raised about introducing these technologies can be practically assessed in the field.

He is also hoping that the regulatory agencies responsible will take the public good potential of these technologies seriously, and develop a positive regulatory environment to encourage their initial uptake in the near future.

“We need to provide consumers with some viable choices for alternative energy supply. New power generation technologies will also produce many exciting advanced technology manufacturing opportunities for New Zealand industry.”


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